Hope, hard work uncover a gem in Minneapolis -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Hope, hard work uncover a gem in Minneapolis


The Rev. Richard Howell, pastor of Shiloh Temple International Ministries, told volunteers and residents in Minneapolis’ Hawthorne Eco-Village on Wednesday that “the spirit of hopelessness has been laid to rest” in the neighborhood. ©Habitat for Humanity/George L. Hipple

By Lurma Rackley

On a day spent working with his former vice president, Walter Mondale, to rehabilitate a house in Minneapolis’ Hawthorne Eco-Village, former President Jimmy Carter declared the neighborhood “the nicest in which I’ve ever worked,” during the 27 years of Carter projects in the United States and abroad.

At a press conference Wednesday and again at the lunch for volunteers, President Carter said he is grateful to Habitat for giving him a chance to break down barriers and live out his faith by helping others.

A family first

The Rev. Richard Howell, pastor of the Shiloh Temple International Ministries, wasn’t surprised by the delightful, atypical weather in the Twin Cities. He saw it as divinely ordered for celebrating the bright future of the Hawthorne Eco-Village. Eleven houses there are under construction or rehab, including one for Howell’s parishioner Drakeima Ingram and her four children.

“The spirit of hopelessness has been laid to rest,” Howell declared. “Hope shall live, and hope shall continue,” for a neighborhood that had recently been viewed as one of the most dangerous in the city. The partnership between government, the private sector and nonprofits, including Twin Cities Habitat, is making it a model of what revitalization can achieve.

Ingram donned her hard hat this week to work on the house she and her family will move into next month. She said that she had applied three times before qualifying to become a Habitat homeowner. She said God chose the right time, and she has done her part by attending every required session and chipping away at her sweat-equity hours.

“I have less than 100 hours left,” she beamed.

Contemplating her move into the four-bedroom house “is amazing” she said. “I never knew this would be me,” the first in her family to own a home. “I’m here every day, and I’ve introduced myself to the neighbors,” said the mother of four.

Ingram’s house is sponsored by Christ Presbyterian, where Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford spent time as a lay member and on staff from 1999 to 2005. Reckford pitched in on Ingram’s home Wednesday.

‘We are not done yet’

Ken Klein, chairman of Habitat for Humanity International’s board of directors, credited volunteers for making the day possible. Two thousand volunteers signed up for the Carter Work Project in the Twin Cities.

“Habitat is known for a lot of things, but one is putting smiles on people’s faces. There are a lot of smiles here,” Klein noted as a diverse group of volunteers, homeowners, donors and Habitat staff assembled for lunch.

“Without the volunteers, none of this would be achieved,” he emphasized. He then introduced a community volunteer who presented a plaque that will grace a bench dedicated to the Carters in a neighborhood park with a lovely view of the city skyline.

Mayor R.T. Rybak also thanked the group, and then made a plea: “Please stick with us. We are not done in this neighborhood yet.”

Lurma Rackley is managing editor/writer for Development Communications for Habitat for Humanity International.