Helping at the Carter Work Project, Memphis

FHLB Cincinnati and three member institutions helped build a home for a Memphis family at the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, held August 22-26.

Five FHLB staff were joined by volunteers from member institutions Bank of Bartlett, First Tennessee Bank and Pinnacle Financial Partners on House 13, one of 19 erected that week by some 2,500 volunteers in the Bearwater Park neighborhood of Memphis. FHLB awarded a grant of $100,000 from the Carol M. Peterson Housing Fund to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis.

This was the first Carter Work Project to take place in the Fifth District since Hammering in the Hills, which built 63 homes in southeastern Kentucky and eastern Tennessee during the summer of 1997. "We sponsored Hammering in the Hills back then, and we were honored to have the opportunity to sponsor this project in Memphis," said Damon Allen, the FHLB's senior vice president for Housing and Community Investment.

FHLB Cincinnati has been a strong supporter of Habitat throughout the Fifth District. Memphis Habitat has received grants of more than $2 million from FHLB toward the construction or rehab of more than 200 homes. "Our contribution to the Carter Work Project exemplifies our long history of support for Habitat projects in our district," Mr. Allen said.

House 13 was built for Ahmed Salamin and his wife Halima Aden, who needed a more comfortable and suitable home for them and their six children. Habitat families put in 300 hours or more of "sweat equity" toward construction of their homes, and donations and fundraising help keep mortgage payments affordable. Memphis Habitat families purchase their homes through zero-interest, 30-year mortgages.

Volunteers on House 13 performed a variety of work to complete the home. Johnna Field, a volunteer on her first Habitat build and corporate compliance officer for First Tennessee in Memphis, spent much of her workday measuring and sawing baseboards. "I was pretty good at it. It seemed to be matching up pretty well," she said. She called it a "wonderful" experience. "It just made you feel good that you were giving back to people, helping them improve their lives."

Erin McNamara Larrivee, also a compliance officer at First Tennessee, said the best part of her day working on the home was giving a tour to Halima, her son Shaeb and her mother. "It was great to see the looks on their faces when they realized they were not only going to be stable, but they were going to be in a safe neighborhood," Ms. McNamara Larrivee said. "It was quite touching and made me feel good about the work I’d done."

In the end, the Carter Work Project helped to create a community where residents are now forming a neighborhood association and even installing speed bumps on the street. It also helped raise the profile of Memphis Habitat in its hometown, and that opened doors to talk about the need for affordable housing in the city, said Dwayne Spencer, President and CEO of Memphis Habitat.

“People don’t know the magnitude of the issue,” he said. Providing homeownership not only helps the families involved, but also improves the whole community by creating taxpayers to improve Memphis’s tax base, keeping residents in the center city and helping to reduce crime.

“We have to be the educators in that regard. We take every opportunity to talk to people about that,” Mr. Spencer said. “Our families become champions for a neighborhood, moving their communities forward.”

The Affordable Housing Program grants have helped the Uptown area, where Memphis Habitat has built 54 homes over the years and performed critical repairs on more than 100 homes, particularly for the elderly.

“We could not have served as many families and have had the significant impact without the support of FHLB Cincinnati,” Mr. Spencer said. “We’re just extremely grateful the FHLB exists to do this work.”