By Julie Lawrence Special to Published May 12, 2010 at 5:19 AM

The weather might be on the cool side and the rain didn't hold off, but that hasn't stopped hundreds of volunteers from coming together for "Thrivent Builds with Habitat Week."

Now in its fifth year, the event, held May 10-14 this year, achieves its mission of helping Milwaukee families build their financial security through home ownership.

During the week-long building effort, volunteers accelerate the construction on six homes in Milwaukee's Harambee neighborhood, four of which are fruit of the Thrivent Builds with Habitat partnership. Those home are located at 3206, 3212, 3256 and 3262 N. 3rd St.

Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity is a $140 million dollar sponsorship relationship between Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Habitat for Humanity International, which has helped increase Habitat's annual house production by hundreds of homes per year. To date, more than 1,500 homes have been built in the U.S. and hundreds of volunteer teams have helped build homes around the world.

By the end of the year, Thrivent Financial will have invested more than $4 million to support the construction of 44 Milwaukee homes (34 in Harambee and 10 in Washington Park) including a $1 million grant for development in the Harambee neighborhood through the program.

"Our relationship with Thrivent Financial has enabled us to increase our level of service to Milwaukee," says Karin Higgins, interim executive director for Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. "The 44 homes we have literally built together mean that 44 families have a safe and decent place to live. And that has ripple effects throughout the community."

Homeowner Lakesha Gibson adds her personal testimony to the benefits of her Habitat home.

"I want to be the example to my three children of what hard work really is, how to invest in themselves and how perseverance and dedication to a goal can make a dream a reality," she says.

The week's volunteers are coming from across Southeast Wisconsin, from Lutheran congregations in Muskego, South Milwaukee, Waukesha and New Berlin, as well as other Habitat volunteers.

"This is an exciting week," said Thomas Bruckner, managing partner for Thrivent Financial's Southeast Wisconsin Region. "Thrivent Financial is committed to helping its members not only achieve financial security, but also live generous lives by giving back to their communities. Through Thrivent Builds, Thrivent Financial together with our members is helping Habitat families also achieve financial security through home ownership."

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”