May 15, 2008
Just as former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter sparked interest in Habitat for Humanity in the 1980s, their trip to the Gulf Coast this week may help keep the nation's attention on the hurricane recovery.
Thousands of volunteers from across the nation and world are joining the Carters this week in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. It's part of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, which is in its 25th year. The project extends into Texas where Hurricane Rita followed Katrina to broaden the disaster's path in 2005.
The scope of Habitat for Humanity's volunteer work is massive. Habitat describes itself as a Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. The ministry's news release reports it has built more than "... 250,000 houses, sheltering more than 1 million people in more than 3,000 communities worldwide." The plan is to build or rehabilitate more than 250 houses along the Gulf Coast by the end of this year. "To date, Habitat for Humanity's Gulf Coast Recovery program has completed or begun construction on nearly 1,300 houses," according to a news release.
This week's effort is another reminder that volunteers have played a key role in the recovery from one of the nation's worst natural disasters. The volunteers filled a gap in sometimes spotty government assistance. At a news conference Monday in Pascagoula, the former president said the initial response, particularly after Katrina, was a "disgrace to our country." But, volunteers didn't have the impediment of red tape in their way. The volunteers streamed onto the scene and continue to do so.
There remain vast areas along the Gulf Coast where the hurricane scars appear fresh. For instance, in the New Orleans area, the devastation remains block by block by block.
Habitat for Humanity is helping erase the scars one house at a time. It's dedicated hard work on the part of the volunteers and the new homeowners that make that progress possible.
Habitat deserves our thanks. Habitat's volunteers and sponsors are doing good work that restores communities in their homes and spirit.