Carter Work Project Day 2: ‘Habitat a Gift to All of Us’


president-jimmy-carter-rosalynn-habitat-for-humanity-carter-work-project-san-jose-by-pam-marino-good-neighbor-storiesTuesday was Day 2 of Habitat for Humanity’s Carter Work Project (CWP) in San Jose, or rather, The Big Day, since President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn came to work side by side with a partner family and hundreds of volunteers.

The morning started early and in the dark at 6 a.m. for those of us serving as registration volunteers. We fumbled in the dark, using a couple of flashlights and our cell phones to read off names as volunteers showed up. Approximately 275 volunteers checked in over the next couple of hours.

Sometime after 8 a.m. the stars of the event, President and Mrs. Carter, arrived by a small motorcade, and more than 300 people, including volunteers and donors who attended an earlier breakfast, burst into applause as they walked from the parking lot to the outdoor pavilion in Lake Cunningham Park. Moments later the crowd stood up and cheered for President Carter as he took to the stage to speak, prompting him to quip, “Sit down, save your strength, you’re going to need it for later in the day!”

president-jimmy-carter-shaking-hands-habitat-for-humanity-carter-work-project-san-joseCarter talked about the beginnings of the Carter Work Projects 30 years ago, and said he and Mrs. Carter keep coming back because, “we have a lot of fun, we meet a lot of new people, the most exciting citizens that live in an area like San Jose, and those exciting people are the ones that come out to volunteer to build Habitat houses, and some of the most deserving people that are the homeowners. It’s been a life transforming thing.”

The former president called Habitat “a gift to all of us to expand our lives, to stretch our minds, to stretch our hearts and to give each of us a more adventurous, unpredictable, challenging, sometimes difficult and gratifying life.”

He also reported this is the first year in Habitat’s history that the organization will build 100,000 homes worldwide, impacting 500,000 people on Earth.

Carter, 89, asked those in the audience who had worked on for at least 15 years on Habitat houses to stand up, only a few did, including Mrs. Carter, 86.

“I hope that 15 years from now when I ask you the same question, that all of you will say, ‘I’m still working on Habitat!’” From their energy and enthusiasm, it did not seem at all improbable that the Carters would be back to ask just such a question.

Mrs. Carter thanked the volunteers and donors for their contributions to Habitat, and urged them to tell anyone who wasn’t there to “get busy.”

I was standing to one side of the area where the Carter’s were sitting, and when the president got up to leave, he came over and started shaking hands. I’ve long admired President Carter, so for me it was a thrilling moment.

Later that day the Carters posed for group photos with the volunteers and Habitat staff, and when they came up to the group I was in, I told President Carter that the lady standing next to him in our group was 89-years-old, too. He turned to look at her and blurted out, “You don’t look that old!” To which we all laughed. The Carters were whisked off to the next group, but to my surprise Mrs. Carter turned to us first and started shaking hands, which I gladly reciprocated.

After a morning of working at a home installing a new front door and performing other construction tasks, public speaking, media interviews, and shaking hands, this amazing couple was off to Denver to do more of the same, followed by visits to New Jersey and New York, where the CWP started 30 years ago.

The other couple people got excited about were country music stars Garth Brooks, and his wife Tricia Yearwood, who worked at another


Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood at a Habitat home where they were volunteering in San Jose.

home that morning. Brooks helped a small group volunteers install cabinets in the kitchen, while Yearwood painted bedrooms with a larger group.

The two mingled with volunteers at Lake Cunningham Park before and after the morning work time, graciously signing dozens of autographs and posing for photos. Their signatures on CWP t-shirts and nail aprons were everywhere that day.

Other highlights of the day:

  • Approximately 50 people representing many Silicon Valley tech firms and banks attended an executive breakfast; Steve Martino, Vice President for Information Security addressed the group, as well as Carl Guardino, CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and Jim Foley, President of the Greater Bay Area for Wells Fargo.
  • Groups of volunteers from numerous companies and churches completed seven playhouses for local nonprofits that selected deserving families to receive them. Some of the children receiving the playhouses

    Naomi, 7, loves her new playhouse, constructed by volunteers on Day 2 of Habitat for Humanity’s Carter Work Project in San Jose.

    were on hand to explore their new brightly painted “homes”.

  • Others completed two shade structures for Lake Cunningham Park picnic tables, which capped off a major project by Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley to construct more than 25 structures in the park.
  • Work progressed on the two home renovations and eight home repair sites in East San Jose.
  • Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford spent time with volunteers personally thanking them for their contributions.


  1. […] Carter Work Project (CWP) in San Jose, something I wasn’t too sure about at the end of Day 2, when President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter came to work. After getting up at 4:30 a.m. and […]