Tribute To Former President Jimmy Carter

From Habitat For Humanity Ceo, Jonathan Reckford

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter first volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in March 1984 on a build site in Americus, Ga., not far from their home in Plains. Later that same year, while on a jog in New York City, President Carter stumbled upon a Habitat build and decided that he and his wife should give the volunteers there a hand. Four decades later, they have worked alongside 104,000 volunteers in 14 countries to build, renovate and repair 4,390 homes. 

Habitat’s first Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, a weeklong build that takes place in a different location around the globe each year, happened in 1984 when the Carters and a small group of volunteers worked alongside families to renovate Mascot Flats, a six-story, 19-unit apartment building in New York City’s Lower East Side.

“When we left the White House, we could have done anything,” the former President once said. “But our choice was to volunteer as Habitat workers, and that’s been a life-changing experience for us.”

On the build site, the former President would get to work and not stop until it was time to leave for the day. Each day at sunrise he would come back, hard hat in hand, ready to put hammer and or trowel to good use. Habitat’s CEO Jonathan Reckford, who worked alongside President Carter for 13 years, developed a deep friendship founded on their shared passion and desire to help others.  

In 1999, Reckford recalls a moment during a Carter Work Project in the Philippines when President Carter noticed that the installation of a toilet had yet to occur in one of the homes. The then 75-year-old former President got on his hands and knees and installed the toilet while a volunteer looked on, taking mental notes to share with others. 

“That moment has always stuck with me and reminds me that President Carter’s humility, resilience, and tenacity is a testament to Habitat’s mission and what our organization is all about, Reckford said. 

President Carter is a true champion and advocate of affordable, safe and decent housing for all. His committed servant leadership put Habitat for Humanity on the map, giving it the profile needed to become the global housing nonprofit it is today. His work and his voice continue to inspire millions around the world. 

“Habitat provides a simple but powerful avenue for people of different backgrounds to come together to achieve those most meaningful things in life,” the former President once said. “A decent home, yes, but also a genuine bond with our fellow human beings. A bond that comes with the building up of walls and the breaking down of barriers.”

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