Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Being a part of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project

Preparations started just after I was hired for this job. We had a planning team in place and we worked hard for two months on a project that usually takes two years to plan. All things considered, I'd say it went very well indeed! I'll have some pictures later, but for now - an account of the project week.

We arrived at the build site early Monday morning. How early? 4:30 a.m! If you know me at all, you are aware that I've never seen 4:30 a.m. in my life! Living an hour from the site meant I had to leave my house at 3:30, which meant I had to get up even earlier than that. At least the day before was Sunday and I was able to go to bed relatively early. So anyway, we registered and checked in about 300 volunteers, and the day started with a bang! A lot of bangs, actually, because it wasn't long before the sound of hammering rang across the site, creating a rhythm unlike any I've ever heard. It was pretty incredible to watch the walls go up that first day, and to see the friendships that were forming on the different crews. We had ten crews, each working on their own house. By the end of the day, the walls were up and some of the roofs were beginning to take shape.

Tuesday was the highlight of the week for many of our staff members and volunteers, because it was the day the Carters came to work with us. It was a special day filled with lots of interviews and other media opportunities. I got to know several of our local media folks better and absolutely love them! The big question everyone has been asking me is, did I get to meet the Carters. The answer to that is that we were not officially introduced, but we did exchange some pleasantries. It was enough for me, because I knew how "in demand" they were all day and didn't want to get in the way of what they were there to do.

Wednesday was our last day of beautiful weather, and the crews took full advantage of it! By the end of the day Wednesday, the trusses were in place and some of the houses had some of the roof boards on. I had a great time on Wednesday working with the crew from the Baldwin affiliate, which is just a few miles from my house. They were great, and I really enjoyed getting to know them. I hammered my first nail for Habitat that day, and worked for a good four hours that afternoon, securing hurricane ties to the roof beams.

Thursday, it rained. Well, it actually stormed. There were tornado warnings in the area. But before the weather got bad, I did the unthinkable - I got hurt. I fell and hurt my ankle (the one I broke a couple of years ago) and couldn't walk on it very well for the rest of the day. We had paramedics on site and they took a look at it, telling me that it wasn't broken and to keep it elevated with ice on it, which I already knew but it was good to get a professional opinion. I went home at about 12 and found out later that they called it a day shortly after that because of the tornado warnings.

On Friday morning I woke up and was able to walk, so I went to the site. It was raining again, but everyone showed up anyway. We worked for awhile, but ended up calling it because of the rain. Everything was so soggy it was hard to do anything safely.

What is amazing about the whole thing is that the weather didn't keep us from getting to the point we wanted to reach before the end of the week. The houses are blacked in and waiting for the pros to come in and do electrical, plumbing and sheetrock. Later, when all that is finished, we will need more and more volunteers to come and help finish these houses.

All in all, it was an amazing experience and I'm glad I got to be a part of it! And if you are curious, my ankle still hurts and is still a bit swollen, but it's healing and I'm walking without a limp, so all is well in that department!

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