They came by the thousands to this site at the foot of the Washington Monument to help those who are suffering from Hurricane Katrina in the southern Gulf States. Sponsored by Habitat for Humanity, a charity that builds homes for the poor, and Freddie Mac, one of the largest mortgage lenders in the U.S., the goal is to frame 51 houses here and ship them by truck to Mississippi and Louisiana.
Ralph Boyd is Executive Vice President of Freddie Mac. "The idea was to come together in the nation's capital and build as many homes as we could in short order that could be shipped to the Gulf states to house displaced families,” he told us. “These are permanent homes that will be given to families that have been displaced by the hurricanes."
The 51 homes represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each house is named after a state.
"This is the platform where the pieces are brought to and the frames are put together," said Mr. Boyd.
Volunteers come mostly from the Washington area. This is the house representing the state of Illinois. And members of Illinois Senator Barack Obama's staff, including Elizabeth Drew, are helping.
"It's been fun, we are excited," she said.
The houses contain 3 bedrooms, a living room, Kitchen, and an option for two baths.
"It can accommodate a decent size family very comfortably," Mr. Boyd pointed out.
Freddie Mac put $3.5 million into the project and one anonymous donor put in another $800,000
"Some of the crew, the volunteers that worked on these homes, wrote messages on the frames of the house to the people who will be receiving them,” said Mr. Boyd. “This particular message says, ‘May God bless this house’."
Appropriately, the project was undertaken in conjunction with the holiday of Thanksgiving, first observed by an early community of English settlers who had to help each other to survive.
"The fact that the help and the working together comes during the holiday season is symbolic and I think fitting," said the very satisfied officer at Freddie Mac.