Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2010

Day 1 – President and Mrs. Carter Kick Off The 27th Annual Carter Work Project

October 4th 2010 – Today former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, kicked off World Habitat Day and the 27th annual Carter Work Project in Washington, DC. They were joined by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford, and approximately 200 volunteers who are spending this week renovating and building homes in DC’s Ivy City neighborhood.

Jonathan Reckford, Jimmy Carter, and Shaun Donovan

(Left to Right) Jonathan Reckford, Jimmy Carter, and Shaun Donovan

President Carter and Kent Adcock, President of Habitat for Humanity of Washington, DC, greeted the volunteers shortly after dawn before the teams got to work. The volunteers included students from Gallaudet University, AmeriCorps*NCCC corps members, and employees from Bank of America, Fannie Mae, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The volunteers will spend the week building six new homes and rehabilitating six additional homes in Ivy City. Despite chilly temperatures and persistent rain, the volunteers remained upbeat and positive, filling the air with the sounds of hammering as they worked throughout the day, stopping only briefly for lunch which was sponsored by Whole Foods.

At 10 a.m. President Carter, Shaun Donovan, Jonathan Reckford, and Kent Adcock held a press conference with several dozen reporters to discuss the need for affordable housing both in the United States and around the world.

“It’s remarkable to see the way that this work that Habitat does transforms the lives of families,” said Shaun Donovan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD is the lead funder in the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), a Habitat for Humanity International Initiative which helps more families to attain affordable housing.

“I’m particularly grateful this year to see an unprecedented partnership between HUD on the one hand, the U.S. federal government, and Habitat for Humanity,” said President Carter.

This evening the Carters will attend Habitat for Humanity’s “Thanks a Million! A Salute to the life and service of our most famous volunteers – Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter” Gala at held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Frank Blake of the Home Depot, Andrew N. Liveris of Dow, and Larry Stone of Lowe’s Corporation are gala co-chairs. HUD Secretary Donovan will be the guest speaker.

“No one works harder than the President and Mrs. Carter. They are not only tireless on the work site, they are tireless champions for all those who need just that opportunity for a better life,” said Jonathan Reckford.

Following their stop today in Washington, DC, the Carters will travel to Baltimore and Annapolis, Md; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; and Birmingham, Ala. to repair a total of 86 homes in honor of President Carter’s 86th birthday last week.

According to the United Nations, 1.6 billion people live in substandard housing and 100 million are homeless.

“This is a very wonderful opportunity for us to publicize the continuing need of good housing not only in this country but around the world,” said President Carter.

– Meredith MacMillan

Day 2 – New Skills Built Along With Houses in D.C.

October 5th 2010 – Under cloudy skies —but no rain— volunteer crews on six new builds and six rehabs were right on schedule Tuesday, Day 2 of the 2010 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Washington, D.C.

By midday, walls were up, neatly defining the new duplexes that will become homes to families in D.C.’s historic Ivy City neighborhood. Roof beams were in place on the new builds, and staircases were installed.

Volunteers building at the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2010 in Washington, DC

Volunteers building at the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2010 in Washington, DC

On the next block, interior demolition was almost complete at the older houses. Volunteers were suited up in white coveralls, booties and face masks, taking no health risks while tearing out 40-year-old walls covered with lead paint.

Good Neighbors from Gallaudet

Among the crew at the Women Build house on Tuesday were eight students from Gallaudet University, along with three interpreters who were doing their best to translate rapid-fire construction terms into sign language.

Gallaudet is an important part of the Ivy City area. Founded in 1864 by an act of Congress—with its charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln—Gallaudet is the only university in the world in which all programs and services are designed to accommodate hearing-impaired students. With nearly 2,000 students, it is a dominant presence and a major employer in this largely industrial neighborhood.

“It’s great having the Gallaudet students here,” said Holly Eaton, assistant house leader at the Women Build site. “They’re very enthusiastic.”

Communication has not been a major problem, said Eaton, a Carter Work Project veteran who runs the pro bono programs at D.C.’s Georgetown University.

“You realize how much you normally shout things — “A little bit to the left, or a little to the right” — without looking at anybody,” Eaton said. “And you can’t do that now. You have to pay more attention.

“A lot of what we do is really showing people how to do something,” she added. “I’ll show where to put a nail or how to hammer it—or if it starts going crooked, how to fix it. In that respect, this crew is no different than any other.”

Paula Dupont, a first-year graduate student at Gallaudet in social work, was enjoying her first time at a Carter Work Project.

“After Hurricane Katrina, I went down to New Orleans and helped build some houses and clean things up,” Dupont, 31, signed to her interpreter. “That really touched me. I really wanted to start doing more for Habitat.”

Scheduling was difficult to coordinate with an interpreter, though, and Dupont was reluctant to try learning construction skills without some way of communicating on a build site.

“I really wanted to understand what was going on,” she signed, smiling. “If I didn’t understand what was going on, I was afraid I would destroy something.”

Now that she’s pretty sure she won’t do any damage, she vows to continue volunteering with Habitat.

“I enjoy working with my hands,” she signed, before picking up a hammer and getting back to building.

Crews at all 12 build suites have fallen into a rhythm, as volunteers old and new alike begin to discover their latent talents at hammering or measuring or sawing.

Taking Turns, Building a Future

Andargachew Negash, a part-time taxicab driver and full-time chemistry student, found time Tuesday to put in some sweat equity on his family’s new home in Ivy City. He and his wife, Bezawork Bedane, are alternating building duties with child care back home.

“My wife was here yesterday,” Negash said. “She told me how wonderful it was, and I had to come and see for myself.”

Negash and Bedane, who works as a home health-care aide, have three children: daughters Loredana, 12, and Meron, 4; and son Samuel, 3. They have been living in cramped quarters in a crime-ridden neighborhood, working toward owning a Habitat home.

“Getting to meet all these people who are building our home is wonderful,” Negash said. “It’s just wonderful.”

Tearing Down the House

The volunteers, accustomed to new construction and hammers, did not need much time to become just as adept with deconstruction and crowbars.

On Monday, they quickly began ripping out cabinets and sinks from the kitchen, yanking old carpet from the floors, and removing a claw-foot bathtub from the narrow restroom upstairs.

Removing all household items that may have been contaminated by lead from the interior paint was today’s objective. After everything is gone, the volunteers will remove the drywall, eliminating the health hazard.

“This is a little different,” said 67-year-old volunteer Tom Gipson, a North Carolina homebuilder and longtime Habitat volunteer who traveled with his wife, Pat, 62, to volunteer for the day. “It’s a new deal but a good deal,” he said of the deconstruction experience.

Lorrie Beck, a seasoned Women Build volunteer from Wichita, Kansas, agreed that although deconstruction is new territory, the venture is just as fulfilling as new construction. Beck, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho, Africa, has volunteered at several Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Projects overseas.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re halfway around the world, in Thailand, or in your own backyard, in D.C., everyone needs basic comforts,” said Beck, who works at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The world would be so much worse without Habitat.”

– Teresa Weaver