1991: Coming together in Miami

“When they told me I got the house, I threw the phone down on the bed, and I just started jumping up, screaming and shouting and crying. I almost forgot the guy was still on the phone,” says Virginia Marshal. “It was such a happy, happy day for me.”

Marshal’s home was one of 14 built during the 1991 Carter Work Project in Miami. For her, it was extra special because it meant moving from a housing project back to the neighborhood where she grew up. She recalls the week when more than 400 volunteers poured into the neighborhood to build those homes and a daycare center as “a wonderful experience.”

Most wonderful, she says, was how everyone worked together. “I really enjoyed how all the volunteers, both white and black, came together and helped build for the project,” she says. “That was the most important thing to me, how everybody came together to build the houses.” Those coming together included her fellow homeowners, who still feel connected by their mutual experience. “If anything happens,” Marshal notes, “we’ll support one another.”

For Marshal, who will pay off her mortgage in June 2014, the best thing about her home is the fact that it’s hers to change as she wants or needs to. Over the years, she’s redone parts of the kitchen and the bathroom, among other things. “Just seeing the progress of it,” she says. “That’s the wonderful part about owning a home — you can do some things that you couldn’t do if you were renting.”