The Chaquidra Martin family -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The Chaquidra Martin family

Chaquidra Martin, 26, is a library associate in Metairie. She will share her new home with her 3-year-old daughter and her mother, who is recovering from heart surgery.

A couple of years late on a lifelong goal

Chaquidra Martin, a native of New Orleans, set a goal for herself to be a homeowner by the time she was 25. Though she’s going to miss that by a couple of years – she turns 27 in June – Martin’s achievement is worth celebrating.

She and her 3-year-old daughter, Laila, will move into a new house after this year’s Carter Project, in partnership with the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. Not far from Martin’s current rental house, cinder blocks already mark the corners of construction.

“I can’t wait to be in the house,” she said. “When you own a house, you don’t have to worry about the landlord increasing the rent. And you just have more security. When a home is yours, you can do whatever you want with it. You don’t have to abide by anybody’s rules.”

Martin has been a library associate at the University of New Orleans for nine years, having worked there throughout college and graduate school (she has a master’s degree in sociology). As Katrina bore down on her rented home in Metairie, Martin and her then-infant daughter evacuated to Grand Prairie, Texas. She was offered a job there and considered staying, but the pull of home was too great.

A devoted fan of Home & Garden Television, Martin is thrilled about decorating her first home. “I’ve got lots of ideas,” she said, laughing.

When she’s not watching TV for decorating tips, Martin is a voracious reader, citing Gabriel Garcia Marquez as her favorite author.

“I’m reading Charles Dickens right now,” she said. “I’m in a library all day, so if I see somebody with something that looks interesting, I just pick it up and start reading it.”

She has already instilled the love of reading in Laila, who seems to have a special appreciation of Dr. Seuss. “Reading together is a special time for us,” Martin said.

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New Orleans: More than 90 houses for the Big Easy

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity shares an important milestone with the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project this year: Both are celebrating 25 years of service.

In the past quarter-century, more than 200 families have moved into affordable homes through NOAHH. Remarkably, more than half of those homes have been built since hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and another 160 are under construction.

“Our commitment to the New Orleans area has never been stronger,” said Jim Pate, executive director of the affiliate.

NOAHH builds houses in Orleans Parish (which includes New Orleans), along with the parishes of St. Bernard, St. Charles, Plaquemines and Jefferson, all of which were devastated by wind and water spawned by the 2005 hurricanes. Since then, 60,000 volunteers have pitched in to help rebuild houses and lives.

For this special Carter Project, New Orleans Habitat is going to build more than 90 houses in the most devastated parts of the city.