January 26, 2008
PASCAGOULA --For one week in May sawdust will fly, hammers will pound and more than 2,000 volunteers from around the world will call the Gulf Coast home.
Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is sponsoring the Carter Work Project with plans to construct and rehabilitate 60 houses and frame up to 48 more in Pascagoula and Biloxi. The bulk of the project will be in Jackson County, said CEO Chris Monforton.
"By the end of first day of construction we'll have roofs on all the houses and all the windows and doors in, and start electrical. That is our goal," he said. "By the end of the work week, we'll be painting and landscaping, have the cabinets in, and all the families moved in as quick as we possibly can."
The project has been a "logistics challenge" to coordinate the volunteers, which includes a "vast majority" from out of the area, Monforton said.
Blocks of hotel rooms along the Coast have been reserved for the influx of volunteers.
There's also the matter of the project's namesake, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, who will visit the Coast May 11-16 to help with construction.
"Along with the thousands of wonderful volunteers, Rosalynn and I look forward to creating not only new houses, but new awareness about the dire need for affordable housing in the Gulf," Carter said.
Habitat's national CEO Jonathan Reckford said the organization will continue to focus on the long-term recovery efforts throughout the Gulf Coast region. "With the help of President and Mrs. Carter - along with the thousands of devoted volunteers who will join them - we'll not only help further rebuild these communities by providing simple, decent, affordable housing, but we'll also help restore hope and stability in the lives of families so severely impacted by the hurricanes," he said.
Monforton said other big names could make appearances on the Coast that week to help build homes. "The Carter Project historically has attracted other high profile celebrities and political leaders. We anticipate the same," he said.
Local volunteers can sign up to help build in a Gulf Coast community by registering at hfhmgc.org.
In the aftermath of Katrina, more than 50,000 volunteers from around the country came to the Coast to support rebuilding efforts, according to the organization's Web site. HFHMGC has a mission to construct more than 800 homes in the next five years.
Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast was formed on Jan. 1, 2007, by merging smaller Coast county chapters. Since its inception, 146 homes have been completed or are under construction, the site said.
Pascagoula City Manager Kay Kell is impressed by the homes Habitat for Humanity builds. "This is exactly what Pascagoula needs," she said. "They are building homes that fit the neighborhoods."
Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway said many residents remain in need of rebuilt and rehabilitated homes, but Habitat's commitment to the Coast is commendable. "Every house counts," he said.