Right after Katrina, Habitat for Humanity launched Operation Home Delivery. Habitat pledged to build 1,000 homes across the gulf coast. As President Carter will see when he visits Gulfport Saturday, the organization he supports is half way to its goal.
One reason for the home building progress made so far is because of the hard work by people like Chris Monforton.
"I saw this project when this was all trees," Monforton remembers as he walked down South Carolina Avenue.
He pointed toward a turquoise house on the east side of the street. That was the only house under construction when Monforton first walked through Gulfport's Habitat Village. Fifteen months later, he's Habitat for Humanity's new executive director in Harrison and Jackson Counties.
"For me, it's exciting to feel like, have the opportunity to be a part of rebuilding a community. And so more than anything, I just feel blessed," Monforton says.
Brad Diver can appreciate that feeling. He arrived on South Carolina Avenue in September. And he quickly became Habitat Village's lead supervisor.
"I tell you, this has just been the most amazing experience for me," Diver says. "I just have a strong sense of community. And I'm extremely proud of the work that has gone into this."
Fifteen Habitat homes on South Carolina Avenue will be dedicated on Saturday. Which means 15 families will have new places to live.
The end of the dedication ceremony will include a visit by former President Jimmy Carter. "I'm a little nervous to be honest," laughed Diver. "If he can at least appreciate the hard work that all of the volunteers have put in down here, and at least appreciate that this is a place that a lot of people want to call home, and will call home," then Diver will consider his time down here a success.
President Carter's tour of Habitat homes starts Saturday morning in New Orleans. His first stop in Mississippi will be at the Habitat project on Union Street in Bay St. Louis. After that, he heads to Gulfport to check out the Habitat Village.
What the former President will learn on his Mississippi tour is that since the hurricane, Habitat volunteers like Megan Hadden have built 22 homes in Harrison County, and 11 others in Jackson County. Hadden left Los Angeles in August, because she wanted to do something to help coast hurricane victims.
"It really just touches your heart," Hadden says. "I always joke that this place sucks you in. Once you're here, you just see the need. And you don't want to leave."
Chris Monforton relocated his family to south Mississippi for just that reason. The Habitat director says as soon as the dedication ceremony is over, and the former president is back in Georgia, 13 more homes will come out of the ground.
"A lot of times folks here me say many hands make light work. And every Habitat house is a miracle, and very special," says Monforton.