Jimmy Carter: The former president keeps giving back

08/19/2014 5:12 PM

08/19/2014 5:13 PM

Former President Jimmy Carter has been swinging a hammer for a long time, and he’s not ready to give it up anytime soon.

In a recent telephone conversation, he talked about how his father had taught him to use a hammer when he was a boy, building pens for sows on the family farm in Georgia.

As a young member of the Future Farmers of America, he perfected his skills even more. And when he was the owner of several rent houses, he said, his father insisted that he personally provide the maintenance, which included a lot of fix-it-up work.

For more than 30 years, Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter have put their hammers to good use by helping build affordable housing for low income people all over the country and, indeed, all over the world.

Since their first project with Habitat for Humanity in New York in 1984, the Carter Work Project has built, renovated or repaired more than 3,800 homes.

Next month, the Carters will come to Dallas and Fort Worth for their 31st event, working with about 5,000 volunteers in building or repairing 100 homes in five days.

In Fort Worth, the group will build 15 homes in the Central Meadowbrook neighborhood and will paint 50 homes in partnership with the city’s “Cowtown Brush Up” program.

For the Oct. 5-11 event, opening ceremonies will take place in Dallas that Sunday afternoon and the closing ceremonies will be from 8 a.m to 9 a.m. Oct. 11 in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square.

Carter, who will have just turned 90 (Oct. 1) when he comes to town, said he and Rosalynn are still healthy, and he brags that he can drive a 20-penny nail through a two-by-four in four strokes.

From the first time I met him — two years before he was elected the 38th president of the United States — I’ve had great respect and admiration for Carter. My esteem has grown since he’s been out of office, primarily because of what he continues to do for others.

During the phone interview, Carter recalled that the first Habitat project in New York 30 years ago, renovating a 19-unit building, was met with stiff opposition from the carpenters’ union because no union workers had been hired to work on it.

Of course, all Habitat workers are volunteers.

In true Jimmy Carter peacemaker style, the former president said he had a talk with the union president. After that, rather than picketing the project as had been planned, the union made Carter an honorary member, donated $5,000 and sent members to join the work crew.

Carter said they had no plans to make the project an annual event but were impressed by the attention and support it brought to Habitat for Humanity International and the spirit of cooperation between people who devoted their time to provide affordable housing for people in need.

“It was a way for me and Rosalynn to break down barriers between rich people like me and poor people,” he said.

Carter added, “We get more out of it than we put into it.”

To volunteer for the event in Fort Worth, contact Lydia Traina at 817-926-9219, ext. 125, or email lydia.traina@trinityhabitat.org.

About Bob Ray Sanders

Bob Ray Sanders

@BobRaySanders

Bob Ray Sanders is often criticized for writing about things he could not have experienced because, some readers say, "he can't be that old." The truth is Bob Ray has been a professional journalist for 40 years and in three media: newspaper, television and radio.

A Fort Worth native who knows and cares about his community, and those with whom he shares this planet, this is a columnist who is not afraid to speak out on behalf of downtrodden people or the abused Earth.

Email Bob Ray at bobraysanders@star-telegram.com.

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