Carters thank the Habitat family as 30th work project nears end

President Jimmy Carter presents a signed Bible to a new Habitat homeowner Friday in Staten Island, New York, a gesture of faith and friendship to families who have struggled to rebuild after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Scott KinkadePresident Jimmy Carter presents a signed Bible to a new Habitat homeowner Friday in Staten Island, New York, a gesture of faith and friendship to families who have struggled to rebuild after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Scott Kinkade

By Teresa K. Weaver

Jimmy Carter helps rehabilitate a home Friday in the Queens borough of New York City. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra MillsteinJimmy Carter helps rehabilitate a home Friday in the Queens borough of New York City. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

STATEN ISLAND, New York — Three decades after Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s first build with Habitat for Humanity, in New York City, the 30th annual event bearing their name came to a rousing close Friday evening in a borough of the same city.

“I could say that our work here this year has brought the Carter Work Project full circle,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “But the former president and first lady aren’t stopping!”

With the twilight skyline of New York City to his right, Reckford oversaw the ceremonial passing of the hammer to Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity (Texas), host of the 2014 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, and then marked the end of the 2013 event with music, fireworks and even a little royalty: Miss Staten Island was in the house. To learn more about the 31st Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, read the announcement in our press room.

This year’s weeklong Carter Work Project also took place in Oakland and San Jose, California; Denver, Colorado; and Union Beach, New Jersey, where the octogenarian Carters will wrap up their road trip Saturday. Most of the 1,000 volunteers from build sites on Staten Island and in Queens converged at Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees, to celebrate the event that resulted in repairs for 10 hurricane-damaged homes and the rehabilitation of five houses.

After spending the first part of the day building in Queens, President and Mrs. Carter entered the Staten Island stadium to a standing ovation.

“Jimmy and I get too much credit,” Mrs. Carter said. “We come and have a good time, and we leave. Everybody else — the volunteers, the staff, the sponsors, the contributors, everybody who is part of this wonderful program — keeps doing the work after we leave.”

The former president followed his wife — “the boss,” in his words — with similar humility and grace.

“We’ve had the chance to do anything a human being would like to do,” he said, with all the advantages that accompany election to high office. “When we left the White House, we could have done anything. But our choice was to volunteer as Habitat workers. And that’s been a life-changing experience for us.

“I feel like I’m part of the Habitat family,” he continued. “Every one of you volunteers is a part of the Habitat family. So thank you and God bless you for being part of my family.”