Overview – Day 2

Heroes hammer on first workday

After building in Pascagoula, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter visited the Biloxi Framing Frenzy, where volunteers completed a dozen house frames and a hero house. Roofs were up by the end of the day in Pascagoula and Biloxi. In Gulfport elderly homeowners watched rehab heroes, too. Photo by Steffan Hacker
Overview – Day 2 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

First building day brings stars, sweat and satisfaction

By the time the sun rose over a blue silk Gulf of Mexico on Monday, volunteers were on their way to build sites with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Buses took volunteers to three cities in Jackson and Harrison counties, HFH of the Mississippi Gulf Coast territory:

  • Pascagoula, where the Carters were building today, has 20 new houses under way in a leafy neighborhood devastated by Katrina.
  • A neighborhood in Biloxi near Nichols School has 10 new houses.
  • In a parking lot off Beach Boulevard in Biloxi, near the historic lighthouse, the Framing Frenzy is building frames for 48 houses.
  • In Gulfport, where a levee broke and flooded the Forest Heights neighborhood, 30 houses have been gutted and will be rehabbed by the end of the week.

Carters and country in Pascagoula
Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, started the build today with homeowner Tracey Davison. Also working on the house for the single mom and her four daughters were the Carters’ youngest son, Jeff; country music superstars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood; Nashville songwriter Anna Wilson; former U.S. Sen. John Edwards; Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford; former Habitat CEO Paul Leonard; and Kraig Koschnick, winner of this year’s Habitat World essay contest.

Brooks and Yearwood delayed their own lunch long enough to sign autographs for neighborhood residents and even the city police who were on site to escort them. Carter stopped work occasionally to speak with members of the press, highlighting the real progress he has seen on the Gulf Coast so far, but stressing the need to do more in the still-devastated region.

First-time volunteer Trabian Shorters came from Miami with his employer, the Knight Foundation, to help rebuild. “The No. 1 reason I am here is because we recognize that this is not over,” he said. “We’re about a commitment to our communities, about rebuilding the region. We go with the best organizations, and Habitat is definitely one of those.”

A ‘frenzied’ first day on the beach
After a day spent building in Pascagoula, the Carters stopped by the Framing Frenzy to view the first dozen frames already completed Monday.

Carter thanked volunteers for their efforts at the Framing Frenzy and posed with AmeriCorps members at the “Hero House,” a completed home built in less than a day at the center of the site as an example of what the frames will become. “This Old House” host Kevin O’Connor, as well as Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, also posed with volunteers.

“Thank you for all you’re doing,” Carter told the volunteers. “I appreciate your service.”

The Carters also talked with Fred Wacker, director of the Home Depot Foundation, which sponsors the Framing Frenzy. Wacker thanked the Carters for their leadership. “Well, we couldn’t do it without people like you,” Rosalynn Carter replied graciously.

Volunteers adapted to the beach theme at the Framing Frenzy, with sand spilling from the beach, Jimmy Buffett music playing through the speakers, a tiki bar filled with snacks and water, and team leaders dressed in Hawaiian shirts.

Build-ready in Biloxi
This week’s volunteers may not be able to fully understand all the preparation done by this year’s host affiliate, Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Ample evidence was found at 249 Nixon Street, the last house added to the build in Biloxi less than a month ago.

A lot of our long-term volunteers and staffers really stepped to the plate so we could get the lot cleared, the foundation laid and the walls ready in time,” said Victor Alfsen, senior construction manager for HFH of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “We’re real proud of all the work everybody put in.”

Because of that preparation, house leader Holly Eaton’s crew was able to get to work, finish exterior and interior walls in the morning, and work on trusses and the porch in the afternoon.

Beautiful builders
In Gulfport, homeowners liked the look of volunteers rehabbing their neighborhood.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Bobbie Maxwell, 73.

She has lived in her house on Holly Circle since April 1969, when the subdivision was young. On Monday, Maxwell was painting alongside young AmeriCorps volunteers, stopping only to point out what a good job they were all doing.

“I don’t know what’s coming up tomorrow,” she said. “But I’m excited.”

Shala Carlson, Phillip Jordan, Teresa K. Weaver and Susan Stevenson