January 25, 2008
PASCAGOULA --While the opening and closing ceremonies of the Carter Project will be at Yankie Stadium in Biloxi, most of the homes built by Habitat for Humanity during Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's visit to the Gulf Coast will be in Pascagoula.
Biloxi and Pascagoula, still recovering from the devastating 2005 hurricane season, will serve as host cities for the blitz build. Throughout the five-day event on May 11-16, thousands of volunteers from around the world will help construct and rehabilitate 60 houses and frame up to 48 more in the two cities.
As part of the project, houses also will be built and repaired by volunteers in Gulf Coast communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama.
"Pascagoula is kind of the untold story of the hurricane," said Chris Monforton, chief executive of Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. "There is much damage still and the need is so great. We felt strongly that we needed to have the project here."
The former president and first lady's visit will call attention to both the need for affordable housing and Habitat's work to help low-income families realize the goal of homeownership.
"While great strides have been made in the recovery efforts since hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the work is far from over," Carter said. "Rosalynn and I are pleased to be returning to the Gulf Coast to work with Habitat for Humanity."
Pascagoula City Manager Kay Kell said the housing shortage multiplied after the hurricane. She is glad the city's needs are being spotlighted by the Carters' visit.
Habitat board member Todd Trenchard is chairman of the planning committee for the Carter Project. He is thrilled to see Pascagoula play such a large part of the project.
"It's nice to know we're not forgotten," said Trenchard, communications director for Merchants & Marine Bank. "The Carters' visit will continue to bring attention to the need we still have here on the Gulf Coast."
More than 2,000 volunteers will be scattered across job sites in the two cities for that one week in May. Monforton said two, three and four-bedroom homes will be built.
For the 25th anniversary of Habitat for Humanity's Carter Work Project, Monforton expects the former president will get his hands dirty. "He feels very passionate about his work with Habitat," he said. "He can drive a nail as good as anyone I've seen."