Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, new homeowners were overjoyed during the "The Jimmy Carter
Work Project" from September 10th - 15th. Everyone who joined in realized that the goal of eliminating
poverty housing was within reach.
With the help of volunteers, the soon-to-be homeowners got out the power tools and participated in the building
of their very own place. This hammering activity is also referred to as "sweat equity."
Habitat for Humanity is an organization that provides housing for people who are presently living in sub-standard
conditions. The New York City branch starts by purchasing, with donated money, an abandoned building from the
city for a $1.00. ("We're trying to get the price down to 50 cents!" says founder Millard Fuller.) Then they
sell it to a family at low cost (without making a profit), and with a no-interest loan. A down payment and monthly
mortgage payments are required.
Habitat's formula for building houses has created great success worldwide and the respect and involvement of
generous, caring people from all stations of life.
At a press conference celebrating the 100,000th home (West 134th Street in Harlem, NY), President Carter
was asked by Lese Dunton at The New Sun if there are similarities between building a house and being the President. He replied:
"There are similarities between building a house and being mayor or governor or cabinet officer. I think in both
cases you want to serve other people. You are subject to difficult questions at press conferences. You're surrounded
by people who want to insure that you are successful.
"I think there's another element of binding an enlightened leader -- like the mayor you have, or a good
President -- with the people who are served. One of the great things about being in political life is that the folks
who are running for office are constantly striving to come up with ideas that will actually benefit the people they hope to serve, to get their votes. So there's a great competition at Habitat of how we can do the things better.
"One other thing that I would add is that when you finish a Habitat house, or when you finish a service -- in the
White House or the Governor's Mansion or the Mayor's Office -- you have a great sense of gratitude that this experience has not only helped other people, but has expanded your own life."
That evening there was an awards ceremony held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Speeches were made by President Carter; founders Millard and Linda Fuller; Executive Director for Habitat-NYC Roland Lewis; anchorman, author and Habitat volunteer Tom Brokaw; politician and Habitat fundraiser Jack Kemp, and many other participants.
In a heartfelt speech, President Carter said:
"I would guess that everyone in this room, as a proud human being, would have deep within ourselves, a hunger to make our only God-given life to Him. To make a difference in the world. Part of that ambition would not be just to build a bank account or to see our names in the newspaper or live in a beautiful apartment or house, but at least in the recesses of our mind to reach out to others who we know to be less fortunate. Whether we are Muslim or Jew or Christian, or whatever. That's a difficult part of the faith that we profess. It's not easy to do. It's one of the greatest and most difficult challenges of any person. How do you break down that barrier between us and them?
"...Millard and Linda Fuller have, better than anyone I know, given Rosalynn and I an opportunity to put our religious faith into practice. Not in a sacrificial way, but in a self-gratifying way...Habitat for Humanity gives all of us an opportunity to transcend a chasm or to break through a shell and to form an equal partnership with people who are less fortunate. Whether it's a financial contribution or a hard day's work, it may seem that we have made a sacrifice. As God is my witness, it is never a sacrifice. It is a blessing. I want to thank you all tonight but also congratulate you for have given us the blessing of being a part of Habitat for Humanity."
During a week filled with blessings, everyone involved created the certainty and excitement of many blessings to come.