WORCESTER, Mass. - When people reflect on former President Jimmy Carter’s legacy, they often turn to his work with Habitat for Humanity after he left office. His post-presidency life as an ambassador for the organization continues to make an impact through the people he worked with and inspired. 

What You Need To Know

  • President Jimmy Carter's work with Habitat for Humanity is in the spotlight

  • During his time as an ambassador, he worked with 104,000 volunteers

  • A local Habitat for Humanity leader recalled working with him in 2000

  • She said he was never there for publicity, only to get the job done

Deborah Maruca Hoak currently serves as executive director of Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester, but 23 years ago, she was a volunteer working on a build in Americus, Georgia when the former president came by to help out. She recalled how he never shied away from picking the hammer up himself.

“He was on site literally to build the house," Hoak said. "It wasn’t a photo-op, it wasn’t a press issue for him. He was dedicated to hands-on doing the construction. He was there first, he was there last, he was engaged all day long.”

For nearly 40 years, Carter and his wife Rosalynn have served as Habitat for Humanity ambassadors. In that time, they've worked alongside 104,000 volunteers in 14 different countries and helped build, renovate and repair more than 4,000 homes. Hoak said Carter's silent, can-do attitude reached Americans more than words ever could. 

“Former President Carter must’ve been the best spokesperson ever for a nonprofit like Habitat," Hoak said. "He did amazing things to raise awareness about the mission and knew his impact. He understood why his being there was so important and really understood it was bringing a lot of attention, focus and support.”

Since the Carters started contributing to the cause, Habitat for Humanity has grown significantly. Whether you’re across the world or closer to home, chances are there’s a job site nearby. Ted Oxholm, a construction supervisor with Habitat for Humanity, said it can be very rewarding.

"I work with a lot of great volunteers, I spend a lot of my time teaching on the site," Oxholm said. "Our volunteers, their capabilities are all over the place, so working here is really a non-critical, educational, community-building environment for everybody.”

Leading by example, the former president likely inspired Oxholm and thousands of others to roll up their sleeves, and they’ll continue to pick up the hammer just as he did for all those years. 

“When you have someone of his stature and character, being a former president, everybody looks up and notices," Oxholm said. "He spent all his life giving back to people who aren’t as well-off as himself.”