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Carter builds legacy in affordable housing through Habitat for Humanity

The nonprofit said the former President and his wife, Rosalynn, helped build or repair nearly 4,500 homes since 1984.

ATLANTA — Sharlena Foster has her hands full taking care of an eight-year-old and a two-year-old. Now, she has a bit more stability in her South Atlanta home. She applied to Habitat for Humanity and moved into the four-bedroom house last April. She told 11Alive she paid a steady, cost-friendly mortgage and zero-percent interest on her loan.

"Everyone's able to have their own room now, and so there's a lot more space than what we previously had," Foster said. "It's sustainable, energy-efficient, and the big thing is affordability. Being able to have a yard and space outside for my kids to go outside and play and just a neighborhood that’s expanding and growing, other kids their age to play with and get to know.”

Former President Jimmy Carter raised Habitat's platform to new heights. He and his wife, Rosalynn, participated in their first home build in 1984 in South Georgia. The couple would spend over 35 years, alongside more than 104,000 volunteers, building, renovating and repairing nearly 4,500 homes. Habitat released a statement soon after the former president entered hospice care:

"All of us at Habitat for Humanity are lifting up President and Mrs. Carter in prayer as he enters hospice care. We pray for his comfort and for their peace, and that the Carter family experiences the joy of their relationships with each other and with God in this time.”

Shawn Medley knows the Carters' legacy firsthand as a Habitat home recipient and volunteer. She said the development has provided job opportunities, new homes and even a new park for the area. 

"We all look out for one another, we take care of one another, whether it’s food, clothing," Medley said. "I know he’s lived a long life and everything, but I guess my heart is so heavy because I actually went to the museum, and we read his story and I found out who he was. He came from such a humble background, humble beginning and loving everybody. Not just Jimmy Carter the president, his legacy bleeds through us.”

The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project was set to resume this year in an historically segregated neighborhood in Charlotte after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Habitat said that initiative will continue so that others can know about the former president's fight for affordable housing.

Long after his days in the White House, former President Carter helped thousands like Foster get a house of their own and have a bit more stability.

"It's surprising to hear in his 80's and 90's he was out here helping on these builds, because it's not easy," Foster said. "It's a lot of tough work, it's hard. But at the end, I was grateful for those that contributed their time."

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