Habitat for Humanity homes are part of Jimmy Carter’s legacy
KEARNS, Utah — This Presidents Day, many Americans are thinking about former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as he begins hospice care at his home in Georgia. His work with Habitat for Humanity will be part of his legacy around the world and here in Utah.
The CEO of the Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity talked about that part of Carter’s legacy in Kearns, where a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood — called Field of Dreams — is helping people realize their dreams of home ownership.
“I consider Jimmy Carter the heart of Habitat for Humanity,” said Ed Blake, CEO of Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity.
Blake started with the organization 22 years ago as a volunteer and met Carter several times. He has fond memories of those encounters.
“He walks into a room and commands it,” Blake said. “He doesn’t command it with authority, he commands it with love and kindness.“
That and hard work are at the core of Habitat, the CEO said.
“He’s been volunteering on construction sites for years and years,” Blake said of Carter.
While many volunteers were always eager to linger over lunch with the former president on work sites, Blake said Carter was always ready to get back to work on time.
Since Jimmy Carter partnered with the organization after leaving office in 1981, Habitat has helped nearly 50 million people worldwide build their own homes, more than 100 of those in Salt Lake County.
Habitat provides an opportunity for home ownership for low to moderate income individuals who cannot afford a home on the open market, but are willing to put in 225 hours of sweat equity.
“These homeowners that are in their homes behind me, they all worked on these houses, and others too, in order to get all of their hours in,” Blake said.
They get a 30-year mortgage with no interest.
“It’s much more than a shelter itself, but a whole opportunity to start all over again,” said Kone Faleaana, a Habitat for Humanity homeowner in the Field of Dreams.
Faleaana is grateful for Habitat and the stability it has provided his family as he and his four children have lived in the home he helped build for more than a year. Without Habitat for Humanity, he said his dream of homeownership would not have come true.
“Habitat for Humanity is about caring,” he said. “It’s about loving. It’s about thinking who we are to one another.”
It has enabled Faleaana to provide a solid foundation for his family. Before they moved into this home, his children bounced around from one school to another for several years.
The Field of Dreams development used to be two abandoned Little League baseball fields.
“There was criminal activity and things going on here,” Blake said. “We came on site and bought this site.”
Now, it’s a neighborhood in development that will eventually house 20 families. Four families live there now, several others will join them soon.
“Things are really happening here and moving forward for us,” Blake said.
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