The annual Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project is primed to make the final push toward the completion of a Habitat for Humanity project that has been taking shape in Mishawaka since last fall.

The Carters, along with country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood and close to 500 other volunteers from across the country, will be in town Sunday through Aug. 31 to work on 23 houses that are rising in a new subdivision at Jefferson Boulevard and Byrkit Street. The project also includes 18 homes in South Bend: six new homes, one major house rehabilitation and 11 other homes that are being renovated.

Aiding Habitat has been at the heart of the Carter Work Project for decades, with the former president and his wife helping to build thousands of homes in locations all over the world. This year’s project is the 35th for the Carters.

THERE ALREADY ARE enough volunteers to work on the project during the week the Carters are in town, but there are openings before they arrive and after they leave. The last house is scheduled for completion by year’s end.

Habitat builds a sense of partnership by requiring owners of the homes to invest 250 hours of volunteer service.

It’s that sense of community among volunteers, the sponsors and those who will experience the satisfaction of homeownership for the first time, that makes this project — and this community — special.

If there’s one thing Ricky Gillis has learned in his life, it’s never give up.

Legally blind when he was born, Gillis was taunted and bullied during much of his childhood. By the time he reached high school Gillis was fighting back, but he decided it was taking too much energy.

THAT'S WHEN HE discovered martial arts and he began using it as a positive outlet for his emotions.

Now, after a series of health problems, the 57-year-old man is on oxygen and undergoes dialysis three days per week. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays he goes to Hong’s USA Taekwondo in Niles.

After a 20-year layoff because of his health, Gillis recently earned his first-degree black belt, two years after resuming his training.

Grand Master Soon Pil Hong, who trained Gillis, said in a video on The Tribune’s website that Gillis’ sister first came to him for help, saying that Ricky was sad and depressed and wanted to know if Hong could help.

Hong, trained in helping the physically challenged in martial arts, agreed and told Gillis there were five tenets they were going to work on in his training: courtesy, perseverance, self-control, integrity and an indomitable spirit.

It’s safe to say Gillis is applying those tenets to his life now, despite the daily challenges he faces. And that’s something we could all learn from.

— The South Bend Tribune

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