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Last updateWed, 12 Feb 2020 1pm

Politics

Former President Jimmy Carter Hosts the 30th Annual “Carter Work Project”

MU Community Volunteers in Helping Hurricane Sandy Victims in Union Beach


Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn showed their humanitarian efforts in Union Beach during a joint effort with Habitat for Humanity and the 30th annual Carter Work Project, to help build and repair homes ravaged by Superstorm Sandy almost one year ago.

Union Beach, like many other towns along New Jersey’s coastline, suffered significant damage as a result of the storm, the Habitat for Humanity website explains. Over 80 percent of the town’s homes were affected by flooding, while more than 50 were completely washed away during the storm and another 200 were leveled in the months that followed.

Today, 500 families still remain displaced and the entire town continues to struggle to move past the disaster, according to the website. The Carter’s involvement with Habitat for Humanity International, a non-governmental and non-profit organization, began in 1984 when the 39th president led a work group to New York City to help renovate a six-story building with 19 families in need of decent, affordable shelter.

According to Habitat’s website, the Carter family has been committed to Habitat ever since. Through the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, an internationally recognized event, the former presidential family dedicates a week of their time each year to build Habitat homes throughout the world.

Since it’s creation, the Carter Work Project has provided housing solutions for families in 18 states throughout the United States as well as in 15 countries, the CWP website explains.

This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. Prior to arriving to Union Beach, the Carters traveled throughout the U.S. to a weeklong series building and repair projects in Oakland and San Jose, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; and New York City, N.Y.

The former president has always been committed to social justice and basic human rights, which was exhibited throughout his presidency, the Habitat website explains.

He is known as the Georgian peanut farmer by some, criticized for his inability to end the Iran Hostage crisis by others, but is recognized by thousands throughout the world for his devotion to humanitarian efforts on an international scale.

Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for those humanitarian efforts abroad and is the only U.S. president to receive the prize after leaving office.

“When we left the White House, we had everything we needed and we wanted to share with people who didn’t have those things,” Carter said to a group of 100 volunteers at the event.

He continued, “One of the most difficult things in the human life is breaking down that barrier or crossing that bridge between folks who have everything and folks who don’t have much […]. We can cross that divide and touch the hearts and lives and future and self respect and hope and dreams of people who have never had a decent house.”

Carter explained that often, the hardest lesson to comprehend is that in the richest country in the world, there are countless people living without the comforts of a warm bed and a secure home.

The former president, who teaches Sunday school at his church in Plains, GA, explained that his faith continues to be a driving force behind his involvement with the organization. He described how he wanted to share that devotion with people who are less well off.

Carter said, “That’s the way God looks at us… it’s not whether we have built houses for 30 years or for the first time; it’s not how rich we are, how poor we are; it’s not whether we are Americans or foreigners; it’s not whether we are Christians, or Jews, or Muslim; it’s just the fact everyone is the same in God’s eyes, and that’s what Habitat reminds me of.”

Erika Allison, a dedicated volunteer from Texas, explained how she has been volunteering internationally for six years and like Carter, has helped build homes in places such as Africa, Jordan, and Nicaragua for those who need them the most.

“I’m excited to see so many people come together for this effort. Almost one year later, these people are still recovering and it’s clear that the people of New Jersey stick together to finish the job,” Allison said.

She continued, “Obviously, Jimmy Carter felt strongly about this issue and it’s nice to see what he came out to support the community today.”

Ray Gabler, Director of Operations at Habitat for Humanity International said of Carter, “The world would be much worse off without the tireless efforts of this man.”

University President Dr. Paul Brown, who attended the event on Saturday, expressed “ Giving back to the community helps remind us that we are not alone and that by working together we can come back after a natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy.  There are still lots of Jersey Shore towns that need help in rebuilding. The more we work together, the faster it will get done. We are definitely ‘stronger than the storm.’”

Dr. Brown, who worked alongside the Carter’s and volunteers to rebuild House 15, said, “I was honored to meet President Carter and Rosalynn on Saturday and work with them and the many wonderful volunteers on rebuilding a house in Union Beach.”

He expressed how the Carter’s hard work inspires volunteers and changes the lives of Habitat partner families. “I am moved by their dedication and passion for community service,” Brown said.

Dr. Brown also showed his gratitude to the University students who helped organize the event. He said, “Thank you to Monmouth University students and employees for their hard work on this important project. Monmouth is a strong and caring university.”

Lauren Pharoah, a senior communication major and member of PRSSA who helped organize the event said, “It’s not only nice to see President Brown and President Carter working together, but it’s incredible to see that coming from such affluence, they are both willing to volunteer to help those less fortunate. They are not just here observing, but are out here showing support and working for an incredible cause.”

Carlos Rodriguez, Chief of Emergency Medical Services in Union Beach expressed, “This event is a wonderful boost for the people in the area. People are coming back now and they’re getting houses. It’s been a year and people thought they were forgotten but as you see today, they aren’t forgotten.”

He said, “President Carter didn’t have to come here to Union Beach, but recognized the need of so many of our residents and is here working just as hard as the other volunteers.”

Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International expressed during the event’s press conference, “The Carters are the face of Habitat for Humanity… I can tell you that no one works harder on the work site. The President and Mrs. Carter are tireless champions for social justice.”

He explained how the Carter’s 30-year legacy of service has brought hope to more than 3,800 families worldwide with “ripples of impact that have touched literally hundreds of thousands of families.”

The dedicated 89-year-old former president helped frame walls for the future home of Elmer Lamberson, whose one-room bungalow, known as House 15, was destroyed by floodwater from Raritan Bay. Working with other volunteers, Carter carried finished sections of walls to the new house and helped lift them to the second floor.

Carter expressed that he and Rosalynn’s involvement in Habitat is an extension of their commitment as Christians. “We would have never dreamed 35 years ago what Habitat would amount to,” he said.

Throughout the day, Carter continued to remind volunteers and those involved in organizing the event that he accepts all people for who they are, including those who have differences in their political beliefs.

Although Carter is a Democrat, he expressed his gratitude towards Republican Governor Christie for his response during Sandy and the months that followed. “I was filled with admiration for what he did. Not only helping within New Jersey, but also his influence in making sure that the Congress didn’t continue to deprive the people who were destroyed by this storm from getting appropriate repair assistance,” Carter said. He said, “There are problems among Republicans and among Democrats. Our nation faces a lot of crises in politics, finance, economics, jobs lost, and disasters like the ones that hit on this sea coast, but America has a way of producing citizens who can repair any kind of damage and meet any kind of challenge, and overcome any kind of obstacle, or answer any kind of difficult questions.”

PHOTO TAKEN by Jim Reme

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