Daily Diary – Day 5

Love and building

Russ Cubbin and Mary Lou Bowman, a husband-and-wife team from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are co-house leaders on the home of Tiffany Miller in Pascagoula. The two are longtime Habitat volunteers and have been married for seven years, after first meeting on a build site in Broward County. Photo by Ezra Millstein
Daily Diary – Day 5 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Spirits unscathed by the rain
Biloxi
— Thursday morning’s thunderstorm forced volunteers inside houses, under front porches and inside storage sheds — wherever they could scurry before the lightning picked up and the rain fell in force. The fury of the storms led event staff to offer volunteers in Biloxi the chance to go back to their hotels if they chose.

But the rain and wind succeeded in dampening only the clothes. Most volunteers chose to stay on site.

Not a single volunteer left the muddy, puddle-pocked work site at 307 Nixon Street where house leader Jack Evans was in charge. Pam Herzog, 57, stuck it out in order to lead the vinyl siding crew once the rain slowed to a drizzle. “Why not?” said Herzog, from Eau Claire, Mich. “Working in the rain is fun. Besides, there’s nothing on TV right now but soap operas!”

Jim Crouse, of Sarasota Fla., and Herb McCarty, of Bradenton, Fla., both kept working on the porch while the skies let loose. “What rain?” a wet McCarty joked. Volunteer Sammi Lee, 20, was more succinct when asked why she weathered the morning’s storm. “There’s too much work still to do!” — Phillip Jordan

PODS people
Gulfport
— Repair and rehab work continued in the Forest Heights neighborhood, with volunteers nearing the end of flooring, painting and trim work. Paint-flecked workers briskly moved in and out of the telltale white PODS unit stationed on the front lawn of every house undergoing work.

On Thursday afternoon, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles AmeriCorps volunteer Katherine Wright worked on getting a new door to fit its frame in a house on a cul de sac on Walnut Court. The Hermosa Beach native joined AmeriCorps straight out of high school and is nearing the end of her second year. “I wanted to do something real,” she said. “These are the best years of our lives, and we should be doing something. Let’s give back.”

Serving as assistant house leader, Wright walked around the side of the house to check on progress. A giant belt stuffed with tools hangs from her waist. “It serves two purposes,” she said. “It holds up my pants, and it makes me feel like I know what I am doing.”

After her volunteer tenure ends, Wright will attend Smith College in the fall to study neuroscience. “AmeriCorps got me in,” she said. “Totally got me in.” — Shala Carlson

‘A unique situation’
Biloxi
— This is Tom Peretti’s eighth Carter Work Project. Despite the obstacles presented by the morning’s thunderboomers, he and his fellow volunteers at 325 Nichols Street kept making progress. Volunteers put up siding in a steady drizzle and the last shingles were hammered into place on the roof.

“What I like about these weeks is that you actually get to see the house built and dedicated in a week,” Peretti, a Michigan native said. “And it’s neat to go through everything together be with all these other volunteers for the entire week. It’s a unique situation.” — Phillip Jordan

The gift of time
Jennifer Thomas has started sweat equity on her own home this week and says she has been impressed with how friendly the volunteers are. “They’re all so happy to be there,” she says. “I mean, these are strangers who volunteer their free time to help people they don’t know. It’s overwhelming.” She also says that she will bring her 19-month-old twin daughters to the worksite on Friday for all the volunteers to meet them.

When President Carter found three Habitat homebuyers among the staff members, he pulled them aside and asked to take a photo with them. President Carter quipped with the photographers, staff and families before he left for a tour of the rained-out worksite. — HFH of St. Tammany West (La.)

First impressions
Pascagoula
—“If the front door isn’t perfect, people will think the whole house isn’t perfect,” said co-house leader Mary Lou Bowman of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., urging a couple of volunteers to rehang a slightly off-kilter door on the house that will be home to Tiffany Miller and family on School Avenue.

Bowman is sharing house leader duties with her husband of seven years, Russ Cubbin, whom she met on a Habitat build site in Broward County. “See, you can meet a nice man on a Habitat site,” she said, laughing.

This is Bowman’s 12th time at a Carter Project; Cubbin joined the team on the South Africa build in 2002. — Teresa K. Weaver

Smiles and blisters
New Orleans
— Diana and Reginald Sam are all smiles (and blisters) as they build their home during the Carter Work Project. Engaged when Katrina hit New Orleans, they had to evacuate to Atlanta for a year before returning. With high rent costs, the Sams would not have been able to return if not for their new Habitat home in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

“We are so surprised at the number of volunteers who are not only helping to build our home but are also building our community,” said Diana Sam. “Sure we are tired, but the volunteer spirit keeps us going.”

The Sams’ home is one of seven being built by New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity during this week’s Carter Work Project. The couple even had the chance to work with President and Mrs. Carter on Wednesday. “I can’t believe he’s going to help us build our lives back.” — New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity

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