Monday -- Oct. 29, 2007 -- It’s a quotable Monday -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Monday -- Oct. 29, 2007 -- It’s a quotable Monday

Volunteers heading up the hill at the San Pedro build site.


“¡Manos a la obra!” (Let’s get to work!)

--Clive Rainey, director of community relations for Habitat for Humanity International, after the multicultural worship service.

JCWP did get to work Monday before the sun came up over the port of Los Angles shipping channel in San Pedro. A glorious sunrise with high pink cloud layers above the palm trees rivaled the bright moon that had dominated the black sky for the support staff on the 5 a.m. shuttle.

House leaders were plotting the day’s work almost as early while volunteers began to arrive for breakfast and devotions.

Getting to work is a short stroll past an elementary school for the flatlanders at the Vermont site in South L.A. But at San Pedro we breakfast and pray at the bottom of one of those hills that get much steeper than they look when you start walking up them. The Harborside Terrace build site is at the top of that hill. So the route to work is uphill and folks were feeling it. When I ran into one hearty soul when I was making the easy trip down later in the morning, he asked me to get him a rope.

After lunch and about a third of the way up the hill, I was trying to decide whether a serpentine path from side to side would cut down on wear and tear. Then I noticed an entourage just behind me with a couple in their 80s striding confidently up the hill.

Yes, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter climbed the hill just fine on their way back to work for the afternoon.


“L.A. is a city where cultures come to meet and cultures come to live.”

--Erin Rank, CEO, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles at the opening ceremonies Sunday.

"The biggest problem in Los Angeles has been the extreme disparity between the value of the average home, $545,000, and the average income of the families that have to rent a home...only $35,000," Carter had told the press in interviews explain why he was building in the city. He also urged federal action to rescue an estimated 2 million homeowners caught in the subprime mortgage trap.

As Reuters reported, that income disparity fueled subprime borrowing in Southern California as families took out mortgages with low introductory rates that often would spike in two years.

Los Angeles County, one of the wealthiest in the nation, showed a 144 percent rise in defaults on mortgage loans in the third quarter of 2007 from a year earlier, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

Two of the cultures that meet are the cultures of poverty and greed.


"This is quite a beehive of activity you guys have out here. It's good to see."

--Los Angeles Fire Marshal John Williams.

At about 11 a.m.
, a fire truck pulled up to the Vermont Avenue construction site, not because anything was on fire, but because fire marshal John Williams was stopping for a quick site visit to appraise progress. Williams has been working with Habitat Los Angeles on both JCWP construction sites' fire codes and just wanted to make sure things were in line. He brought along several firemen from the local firehouse, the first responders who will be responsible for emergency calls once the houses are complete and the families move in.

"We really just wanted to come by because we were curious," said one firefighter in an LAFD T-shirt and fire helmet. "And this way, we will already be familiar with the neighborhood once it's complete."

Williams stood in the center of the build site, speaking with Habitat house leaders and site managers, greeting volunteers and local friends pitching in, as his men stepped into a few of the houses for a quick look.


“I’ve always wanted to give back, and I know I could get a roof done in no time flat.”

--an anonymous roofing contractor and now volunteer recruited on Vermont Avenue by co-blogger Shala Carlson

Walking down the sidewalk
between the Vermont Avenue construction site and the Vermont Avenue staging area midmorning, Shala Carlson was hailed by a Habitat volunteer who had stopped to talk to a man pulled alongside the curb in a white pick-up truck. (We wear brown “staff” vest which get us into solving all sort of micro-crises.) Richard, the driver, had been driving along Vermont Avenue Monday morning, seeing all the steady stream of JCWP participants in hard hats. “I thought, ‘That’s got to be Habitat,’” he said.

He had pulled over to stop someone to find out how to volunteer with Habitat. A roofing contractor by trade, Richard felt like he might be a good fit.

Safety briefing before the day’s building begins.


“What’s rule number one?

--Tom Gerdy, one of 16 volunteer house leaders on the San Pedro site, asks this question periodically of his build team.

The answer he carefully coached his volunteers to remember? “Don’t hurt Tom.”

It’s not that anyone
would want to hurt Tom. It’s just these build sites are not exactly spacious.

Land in L.A. is extremely expensive, so high-density building makes these homes affordable. As a result, JCWP this year is more crowded than your average construction site. It’s more crowded than your average hometown football game in the U.S. on a Friday night. And a lot noisier.

Here are the obstacles I recorded on a walk from one side of the site to the other. First, I needed to emerge from computer space in a 10-foot-by-20-foot tent we share with the First Aid examining “room,” photographers, videographers, writer/editors, a water cooler, a cot, a blood pressure machine, medical supplies, water bottles, snacks for blood sugar, a table and three chairs, and at any given time some of about 10 First Aid staffers and seven of your bloggers plus video people.

Next I met a man who hugged me because I happened to be hugging a homeowner-to-be hello when he was walking by. Then I negotiated a couple shouldering a house-long strip of siding. A house leader looking for a broom was next. “You can tell men plan these things. There is never a decent broom. I usually buy one and bring it,” she muttered.

Then I stopped to get out of the picture of a TV crew interviewing a volunteer. Then jigsawed slightly to avoid Tom’s crew who were sawing away.

Glancing upward, I saw staff photographer Ezra Millstein on a roof taking photos. I mentally told him to move back from the edge, please.

A man stopped me to ask how to find house 5A. I showed him the signs that are taller than my 67 inches high and hanging on each house with the house number.

Then I stopped to watch the smooth progress on installing siding by a team in Dow Chemical T-shirts. I wondered if they should be sent door to door with siding advice.

I had almost made it to the outskirts of the site when the security folks stopped me to tell me I couldn’t go that way. I was too close to the house the Carters were at work on.

Now add dirt, dust, sun, construction noises, talk, yelling, laughter, 400 volunteers, 20 staff members and port-a-potties. You can understand why I couldn’t remember why I first started across the site.

But having reported this scene to you, I now had a purpose.

More than quotable:

“You will be in heaven before you realize the impact you’ve had today. What you’re doing today is an investment in the kingdom of God that will go beyond the time you spent here this week. God is choosing this week to love others through you. He’s going to bless someone through you and that’s a great honor,”

-- Bishop Kenneth Ulmer of the 13,000-member Faithful Central Bible Church in Los Angeles, addressing to volunteers at devotions on the Vermont build site.