Daily Diary – Day 1

Registration day

Future home partner Chad Winstead, of Gautier, Miss., hands volunteer materials to Fred Wacker, COO of The Home Depot Foundation.
Daily Diary – Day 1 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Volunteers from north, south, east and west registered for the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project at hotels and Yankie Stadium, The Salvation Army’s volunteer center for the Gulf Coast.

The volunteer experience

Biloxi, Mississippi -- Yankie Stadium served as one of the volunteer registration spots for opening day of the 2008 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. Habitat event staff put the finishing touches on the site for opening ceremonies as volunteers registered.

Sunday wasn’t the first day that Habitat volunteers had been at Yankie Stadium, however. Volunteers have rotated into Biloxi and the Gulf Coast for many months -- helping the Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast affiliate build. And volunteers have used Yankie Stadium, and specifically the shelter built under the stadium’s bleachers, as their living quarters and staging ground.

The headquarters is decorated with messages from volunteers who have stayed here. Messages painted on the concrete blocks proclaim: “Every nail counts!” and “We Came. We Sawed. We Conquered.”

“For the past few weeks, we’ve been helping out a lot with the preparations for this week,” said Thomas White, 23, a Habitat volunteer. “We’re excited to finally have the official building week here.” — Phillip Jordan

The pluck of the Irish

Beau Rivage -- Standing in line at Carter Work Project registration on Sunday afternoon, Habitat Ireland staffer Maria Duggan and her six compatriots shrugged off the effects of their recent international time change. The team is a mix of first-time and long-time volunteers, from school teachers to professional bricklayers. For brand-new Habitat volunteer and Belfast resident Jacqueline McGeown, the location of this year’s project is special.

“I happened to be in New Orleans five months before Katrina hit, and the people there were so nice and friendly,” she said. “I really wanted to be a part of this rebuilding effort in the region.”-- Shala Carlson

On-time arrival

Beau Rivage -- Delta employees Claudia Benjamin and Alexis Kimball didn’t even go up to their rooms before heading to registration for the Carter Work Project. Wearing bright-red Delta’s Force for Global Good T-shirts, the pair registered with suitcases and bags in tow. Kimball, a legal assistant who has worked for Delta for more than 20 years, has volunteered on three Habitat builds near her home in Stone Mountain, Ga.

She said housing is something too many of us take for granted: “In my past, I’ve had some housing issues myself, and this is my way of giving back.” -- Shala Carlson

From accountant to AmeriCorps

Isle of Capri -- David Walker worked as a CPA for six years in Atlanta before quitting his job to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. A native of Perry, Ga., he said he was “looking for something different” when he shifted gears and drove straight to Mooresville, N.C., where he’s now an AmeriCorps volunteer with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity. No stranger to Habitat -- he volunteered while in high school and college — David’s traveling this week with the affiliate’s volunteer coordinator Pat Stenhouse; Pat’s husband, Mike; and five fellow AmeriCorps members including Sarah Heithoff and Stephanie Buttner.

Both Pat and Mike worked with Habitat in the Gulf Coast recovery effort a year and a half ago with a 14-member team from Our Towns HFH. Alluding to what could easily become a theme for the week, Pat says, “It’s amazing what’s been built up … and what hasn’t.” — Shawn Reeves

Hard-working volunteers, families

Isle of Capri — Before her AmeriCorps service with the Moore County affiliate in Pinehurst, N.C., Justine Murphy, 19, admittedly had the wrong idea about Habitat. “Before I got here, I thought Habitat just gave the houses away.” Now she knows how hard Habitat homeowners work for their houses. She works on the affiliate construction crew — she likes framing and roofing the best—and has learned about the difference a house can make in the lives of families.

Traveling companion and fellow AmeriCorps member Sarah Erdman, 22, visited the Gulf last May while on a building trip with her church. “We worked then to get all the mud out of a house so the family could rebuild. Working with them made the whole thing much more meaningful.” --Shawn Reeves

Something to take home

Chris Hovey of PMI eagerly sought the more than 20 co-workers that he knew were coming to help build. The first-time volunteer said he had no construction expertise, but he looked forward to picking some up this week to use for home improvement projects to impress his wife. -- Shala Carlson

Meet the writers
who are covering this year’s Carter Work Project. See their bios at the bottom of this page.