Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2008 – The Gulf Coast

Coming home again: Why it matters

Carolyn and Jessie Gaines are among many families who are finally back in their own houses nearly three years after Katrina. Still, too many wait for the stocking-feet comfort and security of a decent, affordable place of one's own. Photo by Shawn Reeves.

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Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2008 – The Gulf Coast -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1


Check out our Affiliate Update detailing Gulf Coast progress one month after Carter Work Project 2008, and download volunteer photos. Then learn about Carter Work Project 2009 in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia.

Where we left off
Rain on the final two days of the Carter Work Project may have prevented volunteers from completely finishing all the houses worked on during the intensive week of building. But construction supervisors for the Carter Work Project’s host affiliate said volunteers can be proud of what they accomplished.

“Obviously, we were hoping to get a little further in the building process,” said CEO Chris Monforton of HFH of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

But there was much more to be happy about, he said: the donation in cash and building materials of $4.8 million; the city of Biloxi donated two plots of land for houses; and the amazing work of the Salvation Army helped things go smoothly.

“In a perfect world, it takes about six and a half weeks for us to build a house,” said Victor Alfsen, senior construction manager for Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “And that’s a perfect world, which doesn’t usually exist. Usually it takes about 12, or probably even 16 weeks.

“Here, we got the bulk of the work done in one week. What does that tell you about how much this helped us?”

Alfsen said he estimated it would only take the affiliate about two or three weeks to finish the rest of the work on the houses constructed during the Carter Work Project. “I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “All I hope now is that every last volunteer here had a good enough experience that they want to come back at some point and do it again. Because we’re going to continue to need the extra help.”

Getting back to work

Of course, while much was accomplished during the 2008 Carter Work Project, much still remains in order to provide adequate housing for families in need along the U.S. Gulf Coast. At the closing ceremonies in Biloxi, Miss., former U.S. President Jimmy Carter challenged volunteers to remember the Gulf Coast long after they leave. Return to volunteer again, he instructed. Tell others to get involved. Don’t let anyone forget.

“Habitat needs 600 volunteers every day on the Gulf Coast,” Carter said. “This is a step on a long road to make this a beautiful place in America once again.”

More than 50 out-of-town volunteers joined local helpers in Biloxi the week after the Carter Work Project, helping to finish siding, flooring and landscaping tasks on the 10 new construction houses being completed. Additional volunteer crews are helping to move homes in Pascagoula and Gulfport closer to completion.

Work is also continuing on Carter Work Project sites where participating affiliates joined in the building, including sites in Louisiana, Alabama and Texas.

A final frenzy

When thunderstorms stuck on the next-to-last day of the Carter Work Project, work had to be completely halted on the Framing Frenzy, located along the Biloxi coastline. With no shelter — and with high winds near the water — it appeared volunteers would finish with 38 houses framed.

However, on Friday — despite more rain and the need to completely clean up the site by day’s end — volunteers were able to construct frames for two more houses. That means Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast now has 40 house frames already completed that the affiliate can use as it continues to build throughout the year.

Canadian muscle in New Orleans

Fifty Canadians were among hundreds of volunteers from all over at the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity during the Carter Work Project. The affiliate built seven homes from the ground up; finished and dedicated 25 homes (started since Jan. 1, 2008); and started 15 homes (start to dry-in status). The homes were spread throughout the Upper Ninth Ward, Westbank and the Hollygrove areas of New Orleans. The week was full of work, fun and community-building as future homeowners came in contact with the volunteers as their homes were built.

Don’t forget the Gulf Coast

In the span of five days, they tried to finish building and fixing 60 houses. They also tried to build the frames of 48 houses. But rain set them back, and by the end of the day most were close to being done.

Kent Adcock of the local Habitat chapter said “we need 150 volunteers each day, just for construction. We can do this. We can give a little time to finish the houses in Biloxi, Pascagoula and Diamondhead. We can follow up on the repairs in Gulfport. We can give help to Habitat and the smaller church groups who’ve worked tirelessly for nearly three years to get us back on our feet.

“It’s not just the Christian thing to do. It’s the Jewish thing to do. It’s the Muslim thing to do. It’s the Hindu thing to do. It’s the human thing to do.”

— Megha Satyanarayana, Sun-Herald of Biloxi, Miss.