Carter Work Project: "Moving and Inspirational"

Coastal Habitat for Humanity
Wednesday, November 6, 2013

As told to Leah Rocktashel by Ollie Lowery, Coastal Habitat for Humanity (CHFH) Construction Manager

Since 1984, Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn spend a week building with Habitat for Humanity. "The Carter Project" took place on Oct. 10-12, 2013 this year, celebrating its 30th anniversary.

This year, the Carters visited an area devastated by the Superstorm Sandy. Volunteers are asked to work for one full day, but the project was a three day event which took place from Thursday to Saturday.

Ollie Lowery, CHFH Construction Manager, describes his unique experience in one house: "We worked multiple jobs throughout the day.  We replaced a fence, repaired basements, doors, and a whole lot of odds and ends".

The Carter project also works as a fundraiser. Similar to corporate volunteering on daily projects for Habitat for Humanity, volunteers were asked to pay 250-500 per person. These contributions will go back to the Sandy-affected homeowners, who are paying $5,000.00-to over $85,000.00, at times, to make their home habitable again. The pay-to-volunteer donation inspired people from the tri-state area:

"The people we were working with during the day were all volunteers.  They were from all over New Jersey: There was even a couple down from New York City.   The helpers were volunteers who signed up primarily for the Jimmy Carter project, not previous volunteers of Habitat for Humanity".

Ollie also notes that the rebuilding had nearly equal gender presence. "The volunteers were a mix of men and women, it was almost equal."

Ollie describes the tasks performed: "[The volunteers] removed damaged sheet rock, insulation, and any other worn and torn up fences, doors, and windows." Once the damaged parts were removed, the beauty of the house begins. As he explains, "Volunteers painted the foundation, and installed windows and doors where needed. It was your basic odds and ends". An ordinary day for Ollie of replacing rotted windows and doors will now keep a family safe an warm in the upcoming months. "The homeowners [were] excited to have people at his house working…same as the homeowners across the street, which we were also working on.  The homeowners participated and were out there working with us". These neighbors will have great stories to tell their friends and family members.

Ollie executed outstanding quality and amount of work over a short period of time. Yet he claims, "For me, it was just a normal day of helping someone, whether it was the Jimmy Carter Project or whether it was a regular Coastal Habitat day.  It was a regular day, a regular Coastal Habitat day for us". Ollie has been rebuilding people’s homes all year, so it’s easy to see why this is all in a day’s work for him. However, the project still had a special impact: "We enjoyed sitting up front; watching President Jimmy Carter was great.  He made a speech that was moving and inspirational that stuck with people."

When asked about the highlight of his day Ollie described a touching moment with former President Carter: "My most positive memory of the day was when we went to take the picture with President Jimmy Carter. One of the homeowners had a baby with them, who was maybe six or seven months old- and Jimmy picked the baby up and took the picture with the baby!" Ollie felt, overall,  the Carter Project was beneficial to the community and had a nice outcome all three days. (CHFH) is proud to have Ollie and his construction crew representing our mission on a daily basis.

It is fortunate for everyone involved when everybody benefits from an experience. CHFH looks forward to serving the community and getting people back into their homes as soon as safely possible. Habitat for Humanity shares  the Carter’s views of providing affordable housing, and is grateful to the Carter’s community devotion.