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This article was published 3/10/2016 (204 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They say you can’t go home again, but former U.S. president Jimmy Carter will build a home again in Winnipeg.
Habitat for Humanity is set to announce today that Carter, the 39th president of the United States, and his wife, Rosalynn, will return to Winnipeg next year for the first time since 1993, when they brandished hammers and paintbrushes to help build Habitat houses in the North End.
Sandy Hopkins, executive director of Winnipeg’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, said the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project is splitting a week between here and Edmonton to build Habitat homes from July 9 to 14, 2017.
"When they came to Winnipeg in 1993, it was the first time they went out of the United States to build homes for Habitat," Hopkins said.
"It’s rare for them to return to the same city more than once. New York City has had two, Haiti has had two, and the Gulf Coast after the hurricane.
"We are honoured."
Even though Carter is 92 and his wife is 89, Hopkins said they still put in full workdays when they donate a week out of their year to Habitat. They’ve been doing it for more than 30 years.
Hopkins said the Carters were persuaded to choose Canada to help build a total of 150 affordable homes because it is the country’s 150th birthday next year.
He said 25 homes will be built in Winnipeg, with 16 of them on the former site of the District 2 police station on Lyle Street. Hopkins said that’s where the Carters will help build a home.
"The Carters are interested in indigenous people, so we said sure, some of the houses will be built for indigenous people — we already do that. In all, 40 per cent of the houses will be for indigenous families, so with that ratio, 10 will be built here."
Carter has said in the past "Habitat gives us an opportunity which is very difficult to find: to reach out and work side by side with those who never have had a decent home — but work with them on a completely equal basis. It’s not a big-shot, little-shot relationship. It’s a sense of equality."
Carter has also said Habitat "has opened up unprecedented opportunities for me to cross the chasm that separates those of us who are free, safe, financially secure, well-fed and housed and influential enough to shape our own destiny from our neighbours who enjoy few, if any, of these advantages of life."
Hopkins said while the Carters will be here next year, there was a while last year when they didn’t know if the former president would still be alive to come.
Carter announced last year he had cancer and it had spread to his brain. A few months after taking a new drug, an MRI showed no sign of cancer.
By this past August, Carter was wielding a hammer at a Habitat job site in Memphis, Tenn.
Vern Koop, who was project manager at the Winnipeg building site off Euclid Avenue in 2003 and is still with Habitat, said he looks forward to seeing Carter back here.
"I’m pretty sure he’ll know who I am, or at least he’ll pretend he does," Koop said chuckling.
Koop said he has also volunteered to help at other Habitat builds where the Carters have worked, and he’s always amazed how driven to work the former president is.
"The guy won’t allow photo shots at any time, only at certain times. He’ll do interviews during coffee breaks or at lunchtime. He puts in a day’s work.
"But it repeatedly comes up that Winnipeg was the best build they were ever at. The build, the entertainment and the volunteers. It was a huge undertaking."
Carter told the Free Press in 1993 "the people who put this together in Winnipeg have set a standard that will be hard for us to beat in the future."
Habitat is now looking for major sponsors to help with the housing project, including platinum sponsorship for $750,000, gold for $500,000, silver for $250,000, Canada for $150,000, and bronze for $100,000. There are also sponsorship levels of $75,000, $50,000 and $25,000.