MEMPHIS, TN - Jimmy Carter's August announcement that doctors had discovered cancerous tumors on his brain came with a promise: The former U.S. president would scale back his work schedule.
That wasn't apparent Monday as Carter was on hand in Memphis, Tennessee participating in a Habitat for Humanity build.
Carter joined volunteers raising the walls of a new home Monday morning after donning a white hard hat and a tool belt stocked with a hammer, a measuring tape and a thick pencil. He also will announce plans to return to the city in August for a weeklong project.
Channel 2's Dave Huddleston asked Carter how he was feeling, and the President responded with a smile, "I feel fine, if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be here."
[Special Section: President Jimmy Carter through the years]
Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter also got their friends, country stars Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, to help build homes with them.
Carter said he likes detail work, such as placing trim around doors and windows. It reminds Carter of the furniture pieces that he makes in a workshop inside the couple's compound in his small hometown of Plains, Georgia. Carter said he tries to become "a regular worker" at Habitat sites, with breaks for media interviews on the organization. His work ethic on the sites has become part of Habitat lore, a reputation of which Carter seems aware.
"While I'm working, I don't want anybody to bother me," he said to The Associated Press. "I don't want other volunteers to be coming and taking photographs, because they're not working and I'm not working when they're taking my photograph."
Arlicia Gilliams and her 3-year-old daughter will move into the three bedroom home when it is complete. She started the day by meeting the volunteers, including Carter and the former First Lady.
“To actually see him and meet him and work right there beside him and we’re shaking hands and we’re sweating. It’s the best experience in the world,” she said.
Gilliams said the home will give her a brand new start and comes at the perfect time.
“She will see that she has been blessed by the love and care of other people,” Carter said.
Next August, volunteers plan to build 21 homes in a Memphis neighborhood. The organization also plans to complete other home repairs and landscaping, along with home repairs or modifications for low-income seniors living around the area.
Carter said if his health improves, he hopes to be back in Memphis next year to build even more homes.
“I’m perfectly at ease with my life span being in the hands of God. I’ve had 91 wonderful years. I don’t think anyone could have had a more enjoyable or successful life or adventurous life," Carter said.