Featured Difference Maker

Carol Parise and Habitat for Humanity Women Build

A Domtar colleague for nearly a decade, Carol Parise has found purpose outside of work by giving back to her community. Her deep involvement with her local Habitat for Humanity Women Build committee has helped to provide homes to struggling families while empowering women to learn valuable skills and help their community.

How long have you been with Domtar?

I started in the production planning department at Domtar nine years ago, and I am now the production planner for the Rothschild Mill at Domtar’s Pulp & Paper Divisional Headquarters in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

How did you first start giving back to your community?

My husband and I have lived in the Rock Hill area of South Carolina for 22 years, not far from Fort Mill. We’ve been married for 34 years now, and we have always been DIYers. Beyond penny pinching, we just really like taking on projects ourselves, which led me to get involved with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that partners with low-income families to build simple, decent and affordable homes. I actually first started with Habitat for Humanity through Domtar’s EarthChoice Ambassador Program. We were empty nesters, so I thought this would be the perfect thing to fill that void.

What is your role with Habitat for Humanity?

I’m proud to say that I’ve been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for six years now. When I first got involved with Habitat for Humanity, they were really encouraging more women to join the cause. With my experience in construction, I was encouraged to become a construction team lead.

Shortly after that, I helped create the Habitat for Humanity Women Build committee in my area with three other women to encourage more participation from women who may not have the confidence or skills but who want to learn and help make a difference. We hold an annual fundraiser for our committee and use the funds to help build homes with an entirely female crew.

How have you seen lives transformed through the Habitat for Humanity Women Build program?

I’ve had women come out to volunteer who had never picked up a hammer before and seen those same women come back repeatedly. After gaining the confidence they need on our Habitat sites, these women feel empowered to go home and put their new skills to use. I love hearing about the things they make.

We work hand in hand with the owners of the homes that we build, and the owners have been through so much that working with them gives you a dose of reality. One of my favorite experiences was building a two-story house alongside the owner, who was a single mother with three kids. It was amazing to see her become so empowered after doing her part to build a new home for herself and her children.

How does Domtar encourage colleagues to get involved?

Domtar is always encouraging employees to get engaged in their community. The amount of work my co-workers do to give back is amazing. They volunteer as baseball coaches and basketball coaches. They foster animals, create picnic tables and just generally work hard in their communities. The best part is that they bring this mentality back to the office.

What’s great is that you see this community spirit at all levels of the company, from the CEO to the receptionist.

How do you hope to make a difference?

I got involved with Habitat for Humanity to share my knowledge with people. A lot of people want to get involved but don’t know where to begin. Through the Habitat for Humanity Women Build program, I want to empower women to realize they have the smarts to do it. I love seeing the confidence levels of these women grow from the beginning to the end of a build.

I hope to use my knowledge to tell young people, “You can do it.” And I hope I can get some of my coworkers involved to build their confidence, as well. For a lot of people, it’s the ultimate goal to own their own home, and building a home gives you a huge feeling of satisfaction. I would love to bring that feeling to more people.

Photo: Carol Parise (center, green shirt) stands with a group of Habitat for Humanity volunteers during National Women Build Week.