WASHINGTON - Dubbed as an "historic" moment and an "inspiring sight," America Builds on the National Mall completed its 51-house build yesterday through the hands of the hundreds of volunteers whose hearts reached out to the hurricane victims.
"Is this an inspiring sight or not?" said Congressman Jack Kemp (R-NY) as he stood in front of the District of Columbia house adorned with the flags of the 50 states and that of the nation.
The frames of the final four houses representing the hurricane-affected Gulf States - Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas - were built in the cold winds and the winter sun Friday morning, bringing the eight-day project to a close. The National Mall effort contributed to the larger Habitat for Humanity project Operation Home Delivery where volunteers had the opportunity to help the Katrina victims in their local areas. House frames were built at the Rockefeller Plaza in New York, along the Mississippi River and at the National Mall for the past two months and are being delivered to the U.S. Gulf Coast region for completion.
Volunteers, still in their hard hats, celebrated and dedicated the 51 houses, representing each state and the District of Columbia, at the Mall as they had witnessed the "power of participation" and the "personal involvement" of hundreds of congressional delegates, Freddie Mac employees, and locals, according to Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford.
"Today, we assemble to celebrate," said Reckford during the dedication ceremony.
Habitat dedicated the first of the 51 houses to Bridget Barber and her twin 14-year-old daughters, who received the keys to their new home, a Bible and a Freddie Mac toolkit with joyful tears and continual "thank-yous."
Looking upon the completed work, Reckford said those who were involved were reminded that "there's work to be done not only in Washington, but in every community, in every country."
While there are still thousands of families in need of homes in the Gulf States, Habitats CEO commented that these "first homes are creating hope" - a hope from which people can start rebuilding their lives.
Habitat for Humanity will continue building on the affected region in the next couple of years to provide permanent homes and make the American Dream a reality for many more families.