1984: New York City, ‘where this all began’

For 30 years now, the time that Rosalynn and I have spent helping to build Habitat houses each year has been most meaningful to us. 

Back in 1984, I was in New York to give a sermon at the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral. One morning, I jogged out to what I knew was a Habitat site, a renovation of the Mascot Flats building on East 6th Street. I saw the desperate need for volunteers and, in a weak moment, said Rosalynn and I should come and help. 

That got back to Millard Fuller, and he took it as a commitment. We thought we’d get a few people and maybe take a station wagon back up to New York to work for a week. We ended up with 42 people on a Trailways bus. 

I never thought we’d be back a second time, much less make a continuing annual commitment. But the thing about Habitat is this: Just when you think you’re making a big sacrifice to work on a Habitat project, it turns out to be a blessing to you

We haven’t been on a single Habitat build that hasn’t thrilled and inspired us. We have met hundreds, thousands, of families and Habitat volunteers, many with tears running down their faces at each house dedication. Many times — too often to count — we’ve been in that number ourselves. 

Rosalynn and I have found in these years that Habitat is the best way to put our religious faith into practical use. We get to work side by side with people who lack a decent place to live. We get to see despair transform into hope over and over. We get to see changes in the lives of people who have moved into new homes and who now have new hope for their futures. 

This year — as we prepare to build in Oakland and San Jose, Calif.; Denver; back once again in New York City where this all began; and Union Beach, N.J. — we celebrate three decades of building. We are honored to have joined so many dedicated volunteers and homeowners — those who have worked alongside us, those who have supported Habitat’s work around the world and all those who share our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. 

Together, we’ve been able to build and repair homes in partnership with Carter Work Project families in 14 countries. We look forward to continuing to do so. 

— President and Mrs. Carter