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Jackson, Los Angeles, New York help ‘Make Difference Today’

NBC, Habitat for Humanity, Warner Music ‘Make a Difference Today’ project kicks off in Jackson, Miss., Los Angeles, as well as New York City

AMERICUS, Ga. (Sept. 23, 2005) – Even as NBC News “Today,” Habitat for Humanity International and Warner Music Group staff and volunteers frame homes beginning Monday, Sept. 26, in the heart of New York City for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, hammers will also be swinging in Jackson, Miss., and Los Angeles.

The simultaneous builds are part of “Make a Difference Today,” an unprecedented effort to help the Gulf Coast rebuild one nail at a time, and it serves as the kick-off project for Habitat’s aggressive and long-term rebuilding effort, dubbed “Operation Home Delivery.”

“‘Operation Home Delivery’ is a very bold initiative for Habitat,” said Jonathan Reckford, Habitat’s chief executive officer. “But it’s the kind of effort we believe is required to come back from the destruction caused by the hurricane.” The first phase of the program – “houses in a box” – is also the centerpiece of the builds in Rockefeller Plaza, which will be renamed “Humanity Plaza” for the week, in Jackson, Miss., and in Los Angeles.

With support from NBC News “Today” and Warner Music Group, volunteers in all three cities, beginning Monday, will build the frames of homes, then disassemble the panelized walls, which will be placed in containers to be shipped to the Gulf Coast. There, when infrastructure allows, the walls will be unpacked to form the skeleton of a home for some of the low-income families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Several of the homes that volunteers will be building in New York, Los Angeles and Jackson will be rebuilt as soon as Monday, Oct. 3, in Covington, La., with families that NBC, Habitat and Warner Music Group previously selected in partnership with Habitat for Humanity’s St. Tammany West affiliate. When the installations begin, NBC News “Today” will mark the occasion with a special performance.

“Habitat has seen and heard so much interest in and support for Operation Home Delivery,” said Chris Clarke, Habitat’s senior vice president of Communications. “To have partners such as NBC News and Warner Music, and all the support we have from volunteers and affiliates and others, suggest the profound effect that we can have – if everyone works together – on people’s lives on the Gulf Coast.”

For example, Clarke noted, Lowe’s, a national partner of Habitat and underwriter of its Women Build program, is donating all the lumber for the builds in New York, Jackson and Los Angeles. Penske has also agreed to transport the containers from the New York City build to the coast free of charge. “Without partners such as these, none of this would be possible,” Clarke said.

The goal of the NBC News-Habitat-Warner project is to build a number of homes and to facilitate raising millions of dollars so that many more homes can be built in the region in the future. Habitat has said that it will build as many homes as it can fund.

The build in “Humanity Plaza” begins at 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 26, EDT, and will run around the clock until 7 p.m. Friday. In Jackson, construction gets under way at 6 a.m. Monday, CDT, in the parking lot of the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, 1150 Lakeland Dr. Volunteers will work through noon each day, Monday through Friday. Mississippi Gov. William Winter will help kick off building early Monday morning, and Paul Leonard, Habitat’s former chief executive officer, will build Tuesday in Jackson. Gospel music artist Ginny Owens, who has supported Habitat’s Jimmy Carter Work Project and helped celebrate the ministry’s 200,000th home in Knoxville, Tenn., will be working several days in Jackson as well.

In Los Angeles, the build will be on a lot at 3000 W. Alameda Avenue, near the intersection of Olive, and across the street from KNBC. The build gets under way at 3 a.m. Pacific time to allow for live coverage and feeds to the “Today” show.

Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Ga., is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses in nearly 100 countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for one million people. http://www.habitat.org.