Carters witness—and assist—revitalization in Annapolis, Baltimore -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Carters witness—and assist—revitalization in Annapolis, Baltimore


Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, present Habitat homeowner Ronald Moulden with a Bible while touring the Clay Street build site in Annapolis, Maryland, on Tuesday. ©Habitat for Humanity/Steffan Hacker

By Susan Dunn-Lisuzzo

While installing a sill on the front window of Tymeerah Butts’ future home, former President Jimmy Carter chatted about the current and previous Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Projects, including a 1992 build in Baltimore.

The work of the project this year, Carter explained, was about revitalizing neighborhoods and reclaiming vacant and abandoned properties—exactly the work he and volunteers were doing in rehabbing row houses near Johns Hopkins medical campus in East Baltimore.

“In a few years, we’ll see this whole neighborhood revitalized,” Carter said. That, no doubt, is what Butts and the nine other Jefferson Street Habitat partner families hope for their future neighborhood.

Butts, whose 4-year-old daughter, Tytiana, is already wondering when they will move into their new home, was overcome by emotion.

“I walked through my house today. I’m so excited! I’m going to be a homeowner,” she said. “I helped build this house. I’ve seen the whole project from the beginning, and I really appreciate the experience.” And having the Carters working on her house “made this experience 10 times better.”

The second day of the project week brought Mr. and Mrs. Carter to two build sites of Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake in Maryland: Jefferson Street in Baltimore and Clay Street in Annapolis. The famous volunteers were in Washington, D.C., on Monday and will visit three more cities by Friday.

The Carters’ first stop Tuesday was to meet 10 families and 120 volunteers working on new construction to help revive a historic African-American neighborhood in Annapolis. Nearby residents on Clay Street were on their porches and stoops at dawn, waiting for a glimpse of the former president and his wife.

Meeting the Carters was a wonder to Wanda Mitchell, a homeowner-to-be recovering from a heart transplant.

“I felt like I was dreaming. I touched Mrs. Carter’s hand just to be sure and said ‘I really am awake.’ She laughed,” Mitchell narrated. Gail Fowler, a first-time volunteer, agreed it was worth being on site by 6 a.m. just to shake their hands.

Homeowner-to-be Ramico Green said Carter told her a single woman getting her own house was “a big step, and now we need to find you a good husband.”

By 10:30 a.m., the couple was 33 miles away on Jefferson Street in Baltimore, where more families and volunteers were waiting to see them.

Serving on the site’s hospitality committee and welcoming volunteers with T-shirts and building kits were 11- to 13-year-old students from Tench Tilghman Elementary and Middle School. One student on that welcoming team, Shanyette Louis, is also a Habitat family member.

“I asked my mom if I could do it, and she said, ‘It is good to give back to the people who give to you.’” Shanyette said. She and her family have lived in a Habitat home for about a year.

Volunteers wondered if they’d have a photo opportunity with President and Mrs. Carter, and Jessica Drake, youth engagement coordinator with Habitat of the Chesapeake, confirmed they would. She sent volunteers off to their assigned homes with good advice: “Safety first, smile second, and have fun.”

Volunteers cheered as the Carters came into view after touring completed Habitat houses in the next block. The couple graciously and jovially received the cheers as they walked down the block, passing each row home where volunteers were gathered.

Mike Mitchell, CEO of Habitat of the Chesapeake, joined the Carters on Jefferson Street and later welcomed them at a luncheon for 600 at the Hilton in downtown Baltimore.

“The liberty people seek today is liberty from poverty,” Mitchell said. “The Carters are building liberty for Habitat homeowners here and around the world.”

Susan Dunn-Lisuzzo is national communications manager for Habitat for Humanity International. Susan Stevenson, director of Program Communications for Habitat for Humanity International, contributed to this story.