The superstars were part of a week-long effort spearheaded by former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter to build 21 affordable homes in Nashville.

By Katie Quine ● Photographs courtesy of Habitat for Humanity ● October 17, 2019

On Nashville’s Lindsey Meadow Court, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood’s combined 16 CMA Awards don’t mean much. Neither do the millions of records they’ve sold. It makes no difference around here if you’re one of country music’s power couples. What people really want to know is your experience with power tools.

“Hey, good for you that you sing. Now you hold the ladder,” Brooks jokes.

“Can you work a skill saw?” Trisha Yearwood adds, laughing.

Last week, the pair took part in Habitat for Humanity’s 36th Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, during which hundreds of volunteers — including the 95-year-old former president and first lady — built 21 new affordable homes for low-income families.

While you might think stars of Brooks and Yearwood’s caliber would skip out after a brief photo op, they were sweating it out with the rest of the volunteers, participating in the build, day in and day out.

Brooks and Yearwood have been involved with Habitat for Humanity for more than a decade. It’s a cause that’s close to them. This time around, they got to do important work in their own backyard.

“It comes down to those who can help and those who need help. You put them together, and all of the sudden, those that need help become those who can help, and it keeps going down the line,” Brooks says. “That’s the bond that joins us all here.”

Another thing that brings everyone together at the build site: “sweat equity.” It is Habitat for Humanity’s way of saying that real estate investment can take many shapes. Even if a homeowner can’t afford a large down payment, their hard work is just as valuable as money. Habitat for Humanity homeowners work alongside fellow volunteers to construct their own houses and are offered low-interest mortgage rates as they pay for their homes over time.

“There’s a real pride of ownership because you work hard on it,” Yearwood says. “Once you get that roof over your head, it creates a sense of responsibility, a sense of ownership.”

She says that it has made her want to work extra hard on the homes she helps build, even if that means triple-checking the level when putting up siding, much to the chagrin of her haphazard husband.

“My A game is people, so I hire people,” Brooks ponders about the role he’d have if he were a subcontractor, taking a breather from manual labor to sit down alongside Yearwood for interviews on Friday, October 11. “The first person I hire is sitting to my right. She doesn’t let anything go.”

“Garth is great on the jobs nobody else wants,” Yearwood adds. “Getting up on the roof, lifting something heavy.”

The perfect team.

Yearwood, who claims Georgia as her home state alongside Carter, says the president and the first lady have been longtime inspirations.

“Just seeing the work they’ve done since leaving office, the work they’re doing in the world, they’re such an example to us of the kind of humans to be, the kind of marriage to have, the kind of people to be in the world,” she says. “They embody the spirit of what Habitat is all about.”

The project comes at an important time for Nashville, where the path to home ownership has become more difficult as real estate prices have soared in recent years.

It was a week of hard work but a rewarding one as enough money was raised to build a total of 59 homes in Nashville, including the 21 that were constructed over the week. Still, the Carters were modest about their involvement in the cause.

“We get more out of Habitat than we’ve ever put into it,” President Jimmy Carter said during the closing ceremony at the Grand Ole Opry House before appearing on stage to greet a sold-out Opry crowd.

One person might be able to build a house alone, but it takes a community to build a home.