Carter Work Project 2016: Building in Memphis
A chance. That’s all Arlicia Gilliams thought she needed to make a good life for her 3-year-old daughter. She would handle the rest.
The Memphis mom got that chance Nov. 2 when she raised the walls of her Habitat for Humanity house with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, country music stars Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, and dozens of volunteers from the Memphis area.
The three-bedroom home is scheduled for completion well before the Carters and the country duo return to Memphis in August 2016 for the 33rd Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The gifts of the house she is helping to build, Gilliams says, are only just beginning. “Peace of mind, stability, safety. And hope. This house means hope.”
“I am so blessed — and so emotional,” she said during the build, her eyes filling with tears as the Carters arrived at her lot shortly after sun up. “Everyone is so proud of me. I am so proud.”
For more than three decades, the indefatigable President and Mrs. Carter have helped build and rehab homes with thousands of families like Gilliams’ in the United States and abroad. Each of them, President Carter says, has been as ambitious and hardworking as anyone. “They just need a chance,” he says, echoing Gilliams’ sentiment, “a glimpse of hope that things can be better for them.”
Gilliams is excited about her new neighborhood, Uptown, just north of downtown Memphis. Since 2010, Habitat Greater Memphis has been working with the community and other private and public partners to revitalize Uptown. So far, Habitat has built 28 new houses, tackled 80 repairs, and spearheaded community projects to help improve the appearance of the neighborhood.
Dwayne Spencer, president and CEO of Habitat Greater Memphis, characterizes the 2016 Carter Work Project as the capstone of the revitalization of Uptown. An additional 100 projects are scheduled to take place at the weeklong event next summer, including construction of new homes, repairs of existing ones and dozens of beautification projects.
The repairs are designed primarily to help older homeowners, many on fixed incomes, remain in their homes as they age. These older residents, Spencer says, are like the neighborhood’s big oaks that have stood their ground for decades. “They reach out over the neighborhood,” he says, “providing wisdom and positive energy.”
Gilliams plans to do her part come next August. “Sometimes,” she says, “all people need is a chance.”
Visit Greater Memphis Habitat for Humanity to sign up for CWP 2016 updates and to be notified when volunteer registration opens.