Jimmy Carter + Habitat: The Story

Habitat for Humanity has a long and storied history with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter.

Building the Foundation

It all started in 1984 when Jimmy Carter was speaking at a local church in New York City. He passed by a Habitat for Humanity build site and stopped in to say hello. He had volunteered with Habitat previously in Americus, Georgia, where Habitat was founded.

At this particular site, there seemed to be a shortage of volunteers. “We need to bring some volunteers in to help,” said President Carter. So he and his wife picked up a few dozen volunteers and showed up to help renovate a six-story apartment building. This brought safe and affordable housing to 19 deserving families.

Since then, the Carters have personally worked alongside 103,000 volunteers in 14 different countries to repair, renovate, and build over 4,331 homes. That’s 38 years of volunteer work and partnership that we at Habitat will be eternally grateful for.

In an interview with PEOPLE magazine in 2019, President Carter said, “We knew that we had undertaken a major and very enjoyable hobby on the side. We stayed busy doing other things, but we devoted 36 years to Habitat.”

Carter goes on to say that it’s his faith that has kept him building houses for those in need. “One of the things Jesus taught was: If you have any talents, try to utilize them for the benefit of others,” says President Carter, now 97. “That’s what Rosa and I have both tried to do.”

The Carter Work Project

That first group volunteer project in New York back in September of 1984 is now recognized as the first annual Carter Work Project. Since then, the event has grown to a weeklong affair that takes place in a different location across the world each year.

Every year, without fail, the Carters have shown up for the Carter Work Project. They have become tireless and inspiring fundraisers, advocates, and construction volunteers. Sadly, because of COVID-19, Habitat for Humanity made the difficult decision not to hold the Carter Work Project in 2020 or 2021. We hope to see a return of one of our favorite and most successful volunteer events in 2022.

The Carters have witnessed firsthand how poor living conditions can affect communities of marginalized people. Building homes for deserving families helps more than just the family–it helps the entire community by providing a foundation of homeownership and financial literacy upon which to build. And our systematic partnership with the homeowners, as well as their friends and family, has allowed us to build lasting community ties.

Jimmy said it best when he said, “Habitat has successfully removed the stigma of charity by substituting it with a sense of partnership.”

Our vision at Habitat is a world where everyone has a safe and affordable place to live and call their home. If you want to help support that vision, consider donating or volunteering at one of our build sites.