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Published October 07, 2010, 08:13 AM

Jimmy Carter visits Minn. for Habitat for Humanity

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter pitched in Wednesday for a Habitat for Humanity project, working with crews rebuilding a Minneapolis home.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter pitched in Wednesday for a Habitat for Humanity project, working with crews rebuilding a Minneapolis home.

Carter joined local officials and community residents in the Hawthorne neighborhood of north Minneapolis to kick off the Minnesota leg of the annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The project will build, renovate and repair 26 homes this week and highlight the need for affordable housing.

Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, arrived at the work site about 8:30 a.m. as part of the 27th annual Carter Work Project, which is being hosted by the Twin Cities this year. Before picking up any tools, the Carters visited work crews at each of the dozen houses under construction in the Hawthorne neighborhood and posed for photos with volunteers.

"During these brief visits we don't drive many nail or drill many holes ... but it brings publicity and gives emphasis that there are so many housing needs not being met," Jimmy Carter said at a morning news conference.

Rosalynn Carter had to leave town Wednesday morning. The former president plans to help build homes in St. Paul Thursday.

At a Wednesday night gala, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity announced "A World of Hope: It Starts at Home," a $36 million campaign to expand the chapter's services over the next four years. More than $16.3 million already has been raised toward the goal, including commitments from Wells Fargo, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and General Mills Inc.

The campaign will allow Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity to build, rehab or repair 730 homes across the metro area, with a goal of serving 5,200 families by 2014.

Building at this year's Carter Work Project is already under way at 12 homes in North Minneapolis' Hawthorne EcoVillage and 14 in St. Paul's East Side Payne-Phalen neighborhood. Habitat chose those areas because they've been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

On Wednesday, Jimmy Carter visited EcoVillage, a four-block, $30 million redevelopment project that is expected to create up to 160 new housing units over the next decade. Neighborhood groups, the city and others chose that area for redevelopment because of its high concentration of problems. It's one of six redevelopment clusters under way in the city.

Carter praised Minneapolis' targeted approach to stabilizing neighborhoods.

"To see what is happening in this community is really a tribute to the Twin Cities area for being so innovative in saying, 'This was the worst community we had in our city and we are going to make sure it's one of the best in just a few years,'" he said.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said it's gratifying for the neighborhood to be recognized by the former president.

"The city came together and we said, 'We are going to make a stand,'" Rybak said. "We've spent years lowering crime, building houses and waiting for that one tipping point that could take all of this good work and really get people to say, 'We finally are over the hump here in Hawthorne,' and I think we are."

Hawthorne resident Annetta Coleman was happy to see Carter was visiting her community.

"It's about time someone comes down here, you know, because this used to be the baddest part of north Minneapolis. It was really bad," Coleman told Minnesota Public Radio News.

Carter, 86, was briefly hospitalized in Ohio last week after he became ill. Carter told reporters on Monday he was fine as he worked on a Habitat project in Washington.

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Online:

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity: http://www.tchabitat.org

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