Overview – Day 3

Carters visit sites along the Gulf

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter smiles while working at a Mobile, Ala., work site Tuesday afternoon. Mobile is one of many participating affiliates joining in this year’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. Carter will also be visiting affiliate work sites in New Orleans and Covington, La., and Diamondhead, Miss., over the next two days. Photo by George Hipple
Overview – Day 3 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

From Mobile to Houston, volunteers honor Carters by building the Habitat way

“It’s business as usual on the second day,” said Steve Lumpp, a house leader from Canton, Ohio, and 13-time Carter Work Project volunteer. “Business as usual … which means unusual.”

All along the Gulf Coast, Habitat for Humanity affiliates are at work building houses and celebrating the 25th Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

Different schedules in different places were all brought together by the Carters and Habitat’s commitment to going the distance to help build affordable housing with families affected by Katrina.

Here are reports on the Carter Work Project builds at several of these affiliates.

Bayou Area Habitat for Humanity

“We are quality, not quantity,” said Jeremy Becker, executive director of Bayou Area HFH in Thibodaux, La. Some of the volunteers expected for the project didn’t make it, but the ones who are hammering and measuring and sawing “are having a blast,” he said.

“We are moving very fast. To be starting four houses in a week is phenomenal, but we are where we planned to be in the schedule.”

Some AmeriCorps members who have worked at other locations in the Gulf on recovery projects have been especially helpful, and community support to provide meals has been great as well.

Bay-Waveland Area Habitat for Humanity

Local opening ceremonies Sunday night captured both the sense of what the community has lost and the sense of hope for the future. The ceremony was held in Lagniappe Presbyterian Church, which was formed after Hurricane Katrina and provides many recovery support services. As a participating affiliate, Bay-Waveland Area Habitat for Humanity is hosting volunteers in Bay Saint Louis, Miss.

“We’re pleased to be a part of this effort,” said Wendy McDonald, executive director of the affiliate. “Nearly 50 percent of all the homes in our county were destroyed by Katrina. It means a lot to our residents to see Habitat rebuilding in this community.”

Among the 300 volunteers on the build site in Diamondhead are about 50 people from SEI Investments Development Inc., who have made their fourth trip from Pennsylvania to the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina. AmeriCorps volunteers are also a key force undergirding the build, said David Walker, director of communications at the affiliate.

The houses are framed, the roofing shingles and windows are being installed, and drywall should be up by Wednesday on 10 homes.

Calcasieu Area Habitat for Humanity

Issues with land and permits, coupled with some rain, meant that the slab wasn’t poured when volunteers showed up to frame the first house with Calcasieu Area Habitat for Humanity in Lake Charles, La. However, when affiliate leaders explained the situation, the group just began putting walls together on the ground. The slab should be poured on Thursday and crews should be able to catch up.

Among the volunteers are Frances Harless from Lake Charles and her friend, Bea Perales, who travel from place to place working on Habitat houses. When they leave Lake Charles, they will travel to Mississippi and then on to Beaumont, Texas, to offer their help.

Habitat for Humanity of East St. Tammany

“OK, everybody back to work,” yelled Tyrese Simmons, 7, when asked to close the devotional time today.

Simmons is the son of one of the homeowner families whose home is being worked on this week by HFH of East St. Tammany and its partners. Two large teams from a local building supply joined volunteers from 12 states, many of whom have worked on previous Carter Work Projects, to frame two houses. The projects are ahead of schedule, and four more homes will be dedicated on Friday.

Jefferson County Habitat for Humanity

Marianne Tindall of Bank of America was on site Monday in a business suit with a $10,000 check to offer as financial support toward one of two homes being started as part of the Carter Work Project in Port Arthur, Texas. Later she said she expects to be among bank employees who will complete the home.

In addition to celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Carters’ annual commitment to build homes around the world, this is AmeriCorps Week and National Salvation Army Week. During a media event Monday, Capt. Leonel Ortiz of the Salvation Army spoke about the need both for money and volunteers. Among the 35 volunteers in Port Arthur are 20 members of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and a semi-regular volunteer who has made his sixth visit to help with Habitat projects since the hurricanes.

Habitat for Humanity St. Tammany West

Two of the 10 homes being built this week in Covington, La., have been totally financed by community members eager to celebrate volunteer Marilyn Wenzel’s 25th anniversary with Habitat for Humanity.

Because her service in a number of capacities includes working side by side with President Carter on several builds throughout the country, she asked the community to celebrate her quarter-century of volunteerism with a “Friends of Marilyn” home as part of the Carter Project.

Donations will actually pay for two homes, with money to spare. The additional contributions will be used on the remaining 10 homes to be completed this week.

More than 300 volunteers from across the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia are on site this week. An additional 20 homes will also be completed this year in West St. Tammany as part of the Carter Project.

Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Back at the Carter Work Project host sites, volunteers took joy in making houses take shape. At new construction sites in Pascagoula and Biloxi, roof decking appeared atop house frames, and windows, doors and insulation popped into place. In Gulfport, rehab crews in the Forest Heights neighborhood hammered and sawed constantly to keep up with their ambitious plans to fully repair 30 houses in one week. And at Biloxi’s beachside Framing Frenzy, another dozen house frames were completed.

Most of all, many volunteers enjoyed the opportunity to build alongside the families who would be living in the homes built this week.

“The homeowners are a blast,” said Megan Kimmelshue, who is working in Gulfport at her first Carter Work Project. “This is really something special.”

Pam Campbell, PR/media relations specialist for Habitat for Humanity International