Remarkable New Hampshire Women 2014: Game Changers

Congraulations to Elaine Hamel, Founder of Girls at Work in being named by nhmagazine.com and one of 2014’s game changers!  A woman after our own heart!

PHOTO BY PETER J. MCGINNIS

One morning last summer, Elaine Hamel had just taught a group of young girls how to build a picnic table at her workshop in Goffstown. After they ate lunch at their very own table, too many girls piled into the nearby hammock — bringing it tumbling to the ground.

“I went over and said, ‘I guess you’ve got to fix it, don’t you?’” Using the skills they had just learned, the girls worked together to drill a new hole and install the hardware back into the tree where the hammock had been hanging — fixing it as though it had never broken.

“That’s what happens. You get them in this mindset that they can do anything, and it’s so powerful for them. That was one of my favorite moments ever,” says Hamel, the founder of Girls at Work, a nonprofit that partners with other nonprofits in New Hampshire and New England to teach at-risk girls how to use power tools to build everything from pegboards to chairs to picnic tables.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ELAINE HAMEL

Hamel’s goal is not to get girls into the construction trades, but to build up their confidence and show them that they are strong and capable. “We help them tap into their internal power tools,” says Hamel, a general contractor herself who founded Girls at Work in 2000. Since then, more than 6,000 girls have gone through the program.

Hamel has recently become an ambassador for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Manchester, not only teaching woodworking skills to the Big and Little matches but working to recruit more volunteer mentors for the kids in need of those relationships. “It’s so huge for these kids,” says Hamel. “To tell people that they can make such a small commitment and make such an enormous difference, I’m happy to venture into this.”  — Kathleen Callahan

Click here to read about the other remarkable women who won this award, including our own Corinne Rober, owner of Margarita Grill. Remarkable Women 2014 Game Changers