Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn recently joined New Orleans jazz musician luminary Brandford Marsalis and Habitat for Humanity's executive directors, volunteer staff members, and supporters from across the Gulf Coast to raise the walls for the organization's 1,000th house.
Habitat officials say the benchmark house represents the organization's goal to have 1,000 homes created to help low-income families that had fallen victim to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"The Carters have imparted a vision and ethic of service globally, we are honored to work side by side with them," said Chris Monforton, CEO of Habitat of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. "Their examples will inspire others to be part of the ongoing effort to construct simple, decent houses in Mississippi for years to come."
At a press conference following the wall raisings, Carter announced the Gulf Coast as the location of the 25th annual "Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project," May 11-16, 2008. The annual, weeklong event was renamed to also recognize the former first lady's service to raise awareness and provide simple, decent and affordable housing in partnership with families in need. Since 1984 the Carters have led thousands of volunteers to help build Habitat houses.
Although previous reports have indicated that Habitat for Humanity has lagged in building houses – with only a total of 416 homes along the coast from Alabama to Texas reportedly having been built despite the help of 50,000 volunteers – the officials of the organization confirmed its intention to have 1,000 houses under construction or completed by the end of August, the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. According to the New York Times, they also have plans to build 1,000 more.
Habitat has partnered with Church World Service to help fund the repair of 600 homes for low-income families and with The Salvation Army to increase building capacity, provide housing for volunteers and make homes along the Gulf Coast more affordable. Lutheran Social Services and other Katrina Aid Today consortium members are also actively engaged in helping families find appropriate housing solutions, including Habitat homes. Habitat volunteers have also helped remove debris and clean thousands of homes in preparation for their rehabilitation.
"We are enormously grateful to the thousands of volunteers, donors and other supporters around the world who have put so much effort into making these homes possible," said Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford, in a news release. "Their contributions will leave a lasting impact on the lives of families in need of decent homes and on the entire communities in which those families live."
Habitat for Humanity International has reportedly received about $133 million in contributions, including cash and gift-in-kind product, to date for its hurricane-recovery work.