"It's fulfilling, it's a wonderful experience for us," says former President Jimmy Carter of the annual Habitat for Humanity build that bears his name. "There's such a bonding between the house owner and the people who work on the house."

The Carters have led the annual work project every year since 1984. "That first year we didn't know if we could get any volunteers to pay their own way to go with us," says Jimmy Carter. "We loaded on a Trailways bus and drove 24 hours from southwest Georgia to New York. We all slept on a church floor in Lower Manhattan."

Since then, the scope of the work has grown considerably. This year's build is the first to construct 100 houses in the United States. "This is the most ambitious project we've ever had," says the former president.

It's also been one of the hottest. Temperatures rose above 90 degrees all week, often soaring into triple digits. On Monday, notes Rosalynn Carter, "it was 110 on our porch, we had a little thermometer."

Despite the heat, 100 new houses now stand where there were only foundations a few days ago. "It's a really wonderful experience beside the fact that you're doing something for someone less forturnate who needs a home," she adds.

The Carters believe that securing decent shelter has a profound impact on people's lives. "I think just the fact that people have a home does something for their self-esteem, their independence," says Mrs. Carter.

"They often get new ambition," Jimmy Carter adds. "They have seen success and they have seen a promise kept at least one time in their lives."

The former president finds that working with Habitat offers a unique opportunity to connect with less fortunate people. "With Habitat, you actually cross that bridge between us and poorer people, get to know them well... This has given me an insight to needy people, poor people, that I otherwise would not have had," he says.

Volunteers often sacrifice to attend a JCWP, paying their own way and bringing their own tools, notes the former president. By week's end, however, "the sacrifice turns into a wonderful blessing." And by the end of the day, dedication services will have been held for each family's new house. "I guarantee you at almost all of the 100 houses there'll be tears of joy and happiness and friendship and love shared," says Jimmy Carter.

Other Stories from the 1998 JCWP
JCWP Homeowners:
Wade and Shalina Gibson

"I grew up in this area," says Wade Gibson. "I'm coming back home."

More stories:
John and Belvin Richard
Nancy Rosas
Olga Martinez
Betty and Seff Polk
JCWP Volunteers:
Campus Chapters
Student volunteers are building two houses at this year's Jimmy Carter Work Project.

More stories:
Eunita Shields
First Ladies for Habitat
Joanne and Greg Janson
JCWP Behind the Scenes:
Food Service
How do you provide food and water to thousands of people for a week? Becky Neuhaus knows who to ask.

More stories:
The Green Team
Security Volunteers
First Aid
Day-By-Day Photo Journal | 1998 JCWP Home Page

JCWP Overviews: 1984-96 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000

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