Helping Our Neighbors In Plains

This week’s Courier Herald column:

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column suggesting that the best way we could deal with the great problems and challenges we’re facing was to adopt the 11th commandment and love thy neighbor.  It was quite figurative, complete with references to the parable of The Good Samaritan and the open question, “Who is your neighbor?”.

It was shortly after I had completed that piece that I found out that Georgia’s most famous Sunday School teacher has taken up a new challenge, which is helping many of his literal neighbors.  President and Mrs. Carter along with members of their church, their family, and friends far and wide have begun a mission to repair and replace houses in their hometown of Plains, Georgia.

The project began with a simple inquiry from an Atlanta area church.  They had volunteers and supplies, and contacted Plains’ Maranatha Baptist Church to inquire if there were homes in the area that could use their help. 

After a relatively quick survey, 25 homes were identified that needed substantial repairs and upgrades to return them to a condition of proper repair.  5 of those 25 will have to be completely replaced.  An estimate of $750,000 has been targeted as the amount needed to complete all of the homes, though in-kind donations of labor and materials are expected to meet some of the need.

There’s a direct parallel to a similar effort to which the Carters have lent their time and talents for decades.  Habitat for Humanity was founded just down the road from Plains in Americus Georgia the same year President Carter was elected as Commander in Chief. Habitat has since built houses in all fifty states and in over 70 countries.

Habitat for Humanity is coordinating with the Carter Family Foundation on this new project, dubbed Home Made.  Habitat will lend some personnel and best practices learned over the past five decades, while the Carter Family Foundation will be the charitable entity that will receive and disburse donations for the effort.  Maranatha Baptist Church of Plains remains heavily involved as well.

The community has set a deadline to raise all funds required and have at least some of the homes completed by October 1st.  This will be President Carter’s 96th birthday.

Donations of any size are welcome and appreciated, but the mission here goes well beyond one of finances.  This is a service opportunity. 

It’s an opportunity to consider neighbors, far and near.  It’s an understanding that poverty isn’t something that’s just found in neighborhoods we don’t usually drive through or in countries overseas. 

Those living in substandard housing conditions are often hidden in plain sight, right in front of us.  This project is an opportunity for each of us to take another look at the people we see each day, and to actually see them and if needed, serve them.

After nearly a century of life and four decades of post-Presidential humanitarian efforts, President Carter continues service for others by helping those within walking distance of his own home.  He sees this opportunity as yet another beginning.

There is hope that this new effort for 25 families in Plains will be the first of many.  Those from outside the community who become involved with the project are actively encouraged to consider their home communities for follow up efforts. 

Those of us who have attended Sunday School at Maranatha with President Carter have likely heard the charge to “go out and do something for someone else”.  I’m heading down to Plains this week myself. 

If you feel like helping on one of these projects, there’s a role for you.  If this isn’t your project, please consider finding a way to be a neighbor to someone who needs you.

President and Mrs Carter with a Plains family who will be receiving help from the Home Made project. – photo from the Carter Family Foundation

Donations for the Home Made project can be made to The Carter Family Foundation, P.O. Box 350, Plains Georgia 31780.

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