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Habitat Is Not Charity: The Former President's Indiana Building Project

Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn are helping finish 23 houses for Hoosiers in Mishawaka.

MISHAWAKA, Ind.--Habitat for Humanity is not a charity, stressed former president Jimmy Carter, as he and his wife sat under a tent at a news conference in Mishawaka. The Carters are joining 2,000 volunteers, some who have donated to Habitat to be able to work on the Indiana project, who are in the state to finish 23 houses that will go to northern Indiana families.

"The homes are being built for homeowners who have never had a decent home in their lives, perhaps," said Carter. "We don't give away any homes. We don't give them reduced prices on home ordinarily. The family that moves in has to put in hundreds of hours of work on their own home or getting the site prepared for the home, and when they move in they pay full price for the house."

Mrs. Carter recalled how the two were guilted into their first work for Habitat 36 years ago in Georgia, after Carter was beaten in the 1980 election by Ronald Reagan.

"Never when we started did I ever dream that Habitat for Humanity would be helping a family every 50 seconds in the world," she said.

Carter said he sees Habitat as a way to practice his Christian faith.

"The Bible says you don't charge interest to a poor person. So, we don't charge interest in the United States. And, in foreign countries we charge interest just compensate for the value of the currency," said Carter. Habitat does not profit from that, he said.

"We give the average homeowner 30 years to pay," he said. "So, if you take just the principal and you divide that by 30, and divide that by 12 months per year, you see the monthly payment is one that's available, even to people that draw a welfare check or have a very low income."

It was estimated by one of the Indiana representatives of Habitat, that the average low-income, two-bedroom apartment in Mishawaka, is about $800 per month. He said Habitat homes end up being between $500 and $600 per month for the mortgage.

"So, Habitat makes it possible for people to overcome the tremendous handicap that exists all in this country and everywhere else, and that is the extreme disparity between wealthy people and very low-income people."

Rosalyn Carter said she believes the Indiana project to be one of the most prepared sites she and her husband have visited.

PHOTO: Getty Images/Rick Diamond

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