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The 21st Century Challenge

Meet the Simmons Family

Jimmy Carter Work Project 2003
Volunteers - Valdosta, Ga.
June 8, 2003

During her first JCWP, Margaret Powell, of Medford, N.J., hammers wrap to the outside of house #12 at the Valdosta site.
She's "branching out" to plant seeds of hope

By Shawn Reeves

No one ever said the Jimmy Carter Work Project was for seasoned Habitat volunteers ... at least not so Margaret Powell could hear.

A resident of Medford, N.J., the 60-year-old widow, mother of two and grandmother of four, arrived in Valdosta Friday night, eagerly anticipating her first-ever JCWP. The slight difficulty getting to the appropriate registration point hardly deterred Margaret from engaging not only her first JCWP, but her first Habitat experience in any shape or form.

"Sure, I was familiar with Habitat--who isn't?--but I had never worked with Habitat before," says Margaret. "I turned 60 in February and decided it was time to branch out."

A pianist and former technical writer, Margaret found herself lounging by a swimming pool one day talking with friends, thinking, "I can't just sit around and do nothing."

She wanted to do something rewarding, something to benefit others, something to make a difference.

As she began exploring service possibilities, Margaret began leaning toward the Peace Corps. "My kids wouldn't let me do it, though" she says, laughing.

They advised her to "take baby steps," and those steps led her straight to Habitat and to a frenzy of construction that will result in 25 decent, affordable houses by week's end. While the Peace Corps possibility remains a relative distant sight, she's enjoying her immediate encounter not only with Habitat, but with the homeowners of House No. 13, Kevin and Frankie Washington, as well. And that's what it's all about, she says.

"It's just a great feeling to work side by side with people who will make their home here " just to know that you're helping someone find better housing."

Her experience already has been positive enough for her to predict her continued Habitat involvement once she returns home. "Some friends said this project, because of its size, is not the right time to start with Habitat," she says, "but I think it's the perfect time."

Several years ago, Margaret became an "obsessive gardener," and from there took an interest in relatively small home-improvement projects.

"I had never even operated an electric tool," she says. "I started with a drill, closed my eyes and pulled the trigger." Her interest in such projects grew, and so did her tool collection.

Growing, too, is her Habitat experience...and the seeds of hope she's planting with each "pull of the trigger."

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