At Sunday’s star-studded opening ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium, several local musical acts, including the storied Fisk Jubilee Singers, helped Habitat volunteers and partner families kick off the 2019 Carter Work Project with the soulful sounds of Nashville.
Singer/songwriter Eric Paslay introduced President Jimmy Carter to a crowd of future Habitat homeowners and volunteers ready to get to work on the first day of the Carter Work Project. “After that bar fight, you coming out, building houses ... I love you to death,” Paslay joked about President Carter’s black eye.
“Sharonda’s Home” are the words that Habitat homeowner Sharonda wrote on the beam that frames her front door. “I wanted to make it official — this is mine,” she says.
For 36 years, former first lady Rosalynn Carter has inspired and motivated volunteers at the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. “Seeing people like you who come just because you want to make life better for somebody else, I have great admiration for all of you,” she told the volunteers. “In fact, I love all of you.”
More than 1,300 volunteers have contributed to this year’s Carter Work Project.
Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford helps install trusses on Tara’s future Habitat home. After partnering with Habitat, Tara says that she is “able to see a vision for my future that is very different than what I have known and what my family has experienced.”
At the close of each build day, a different local high school marching band led volunteers and homeowners in a parade through the Habitat neighborhood. On Tuesday, students from Pearl-Cohn High School took time from their fall break to lend their dancing and musical talent.
“When I see my house standing there, I feel like I am in heaven,” says Paul, who is working on his home alongside his wife, Neema, and volunteers.
Former President Jimmy Carter uses his woodworking talents to make corbels, decorative brackets that will grace the exterior of each house being built. “Habitat is one of the best ways to practice my faith,” President Carter says.
Day breaks over the construction site. The 21 houses built during this year’s Carter Work Project are part of Park Preserve – a growing neighborhood already home to more than 225 families who have partnered with Habitat.
For more than a decade, Grammy Award-winning country artists Trisha Yearwood and husband Garth Brooks have been dedicated volunteers and passionate voices on the issue of affordable housing. At the 2019 Carter Work Project, the Habitat Humanitarians helped Nashville-native Julica build her home and a lasting legacy for her three children.
“In the years to come, I can tell my children, and they can tell their children, that I built this home,” says Julica, a future Habitat homeowner.
“It’s great to help the helpers,” says Gary Green, one of 54 hospitality volunteers who greeted volunteers in the morning, kept them hydrated and fed and cheered them on as they headed out at the end of each build day.
Future Habitat homeowners and volunteers go from strangers to friends during the week of the Carter Work Project. “It seems like everyone is really invested in my success as a homeowner,” Eno says. “I’m taking it as my personal responsibility to become one and to help other people like me become homeowners.”
First-time Carter Work Project volunteer Wesley Partin traveled from Tupelo, Mississippi, to join his son on this year’s build. “A house impacts a family for generations,” Partin says. “It is an honor to be a part of that.”