This brief report, like so many things this year, is running a bit late. How is it you can “retire” from fulltime work and manage to stay “too busy”? Not sure how I worked 60 hours a week and managed to do anything else. Now the “anything else” seems to take all the time I have. 

One of my favorite preoccupations for many years has been working in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. My work with the non-profit started in my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. around 1990. As the Jacksonville branch manager for the wholesale roofing supplier, JGA Corp, I started with Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville (Habijax) furnishing shingles for the homes they were building.

It did not take long for me to become interested in doing more with Habitat so I enlisted the help of my contractor customers to teach me how to layout a roof, nail shingles, run eaves drip, flash a pipe, etc. I spent several years as a volunteer roofer and crew leader in Jacksonville and later did some work with other affiliates in South Georgia.

In 2000 I worked on the one-week “blitz build” with the Jimmy Carter Work Project in Americus, Ga. Since then I had the opportunity to work in many Carter Projects, including South Korea, South Africa, Detroit, Vietnam, and Haiti, to name a few. Without the connection to Habitat for Humanity I might never have traveled to any of these locations, so it was always more of a blessing for me than a “gift” to a non-profit. Some of the side trips have been remarkable.

Speaking of gifts, Habitat for Humanity does not give homes to people in need, they build homes with hard-working people who put in sweat equity, a down payment, and take on a no-interest mortgage. Habitat gives a “hand-up” not a handout. This was one thing that attracted me to the work, in addition to the fact that I was already involved in the construction industry. It has been a good fit.

This year my wife, Micki, and I traveled to Mishawaka/South Bend/St. Joseph County, Indiana for the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project where we worked on a build team for a week. As with every other Carter Project I have ever worked on, former president, Jimmy Carter, and former first lady, Rosalynn Carter were on site every day swinging hammers and wielding measuring tapes and saws.

Now both in their 90’s, the Carters have slowed down, but they have not stopped working with and supporting Habitat for Humanity. It is widely thought that Jimmy Carter founded Habitat, but it was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller. The Carter’s started with Habitat in New York City in 1984, eight years after Habitat was started out of Fuller’s law office in Americus, Ga. Look here for a map outlining all of the Carter Projects.

The 2018 Carter Project in Mishawaka, like all Habitat builds, was conducted in sync with the local Habitat affiliate. This is a particularly challenging undertaking for a small organization, but the staff and volunteers of Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County was more than up to the task.

It was no accident that the Carter Project made its way to Mishawaka. The St. Joseph and Elkhart affiliates of Habitat were begun by the late LeRoy Troyer, who served on Habitat for Humanity’s International board of directors and was the volunteer in charge of construction of the homes that the Carter’s worked on every year. Troyer was an accomplished architect and friend of President and Mrs. Carter.

The project in Mishawaka involved construction of two dozen new homes and revitalization projects in the surrounding community. All homes were being built on land that was virtually donated to St. Joseph Habitat as the price paid was roughly one fifth the market rate. The land was well-suited to this development of 41 homes that all feature full basements, detached garage, and generous front porches. The exteriors are clad with vinyl siding, architectural shingles, and vinyl windows.

The layout of the development and exterior elevations of the homes clearly reflects the involvement of a talented architecture firm. This project is “done right” and the results show what communities who are so inclined can do by pulling together to build “simple, decent, and safe homes” in partnership with folks who might otherwise not be able to qualify for a mortgage or ever have the opportunity to own their own home.

A few things worthy of note in this brief report. This was the first time I had worked as a Carter Work Project volunteer on a roof (in the U.S.) since 2010 when we were performing repair and replacement work. Having volunteers work at height means full fall protection as would be required on a conventional construction site. These roofs, however, were built on the ground and flown to the top of the framed walls by crane. It is a sight to behold and you can see it at 2:54 into this video. But don’t just fast-forward to this point. The full video is well worth watching and gives you a real sense of the scope of the project.

You will notice on the video a couple you may recognize who were part of the Project. For years Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood have served as construction volunteers and supporters of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. This year we learned that David Letterman is also a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. He and some of his friends have been quietly working to support Habitat ever since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast.

It has been years since I installed vinyl and it was good fun making all the mistakes and do-overs as I have ever done in the past. At the end of the project it looked darn good, if I do say so myself. The other volunteers spent the week hanging kitchen cabinets, running interior trim, painting, caulking, and all other manners of exterior millwork including wrapping all the porch columns.

As for this blogger, it was an honor to work in partnership with Kaniece on construction of her beautiful new home. She and her children have stayed the course all the way through closing and will now be able to enjoy the holidays in safe, secure, warm, and dry comfort.

Next year’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project is being planned for Nashville, and with the help of my wife and some donors, I plan to be there.