Image: Carter Oosterhouse, Dunmore family
Keith Kolodsick
Carter Oosterhouse slaps fives moments after he hands over the keys to the Dunmore family’s new home.
NBC News
updated 1/18/2012 3:30:37 PM ET 2012-01-18T20:30:37

Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we speak with Carter Oosterhouse about his participation with Habitat for Humanity, an international charity that relies on volunteer labor to build housing for people in need.

Oosterhouse got his big break by appearing on the television show "Trading Spaces" and its subsequent spin-offs. Currently he can be seen hosting the television programs "Red Hot and Green" and "Carter Can," both on HGTV.

Interview by Jesse Strauch
Update by Meg Zrini

Q: In your own words, tell me about Habitat for Humanity.

Oosterhouse: Habitat for Humanity is a fantastic nonprofit that fights poverty and homelessness worldwide and at the same time rallies thousands of people to help with that cause. They get people out there and they get people working collectively which can be a community, region or world wide issue.

Q: What is your role with Habitat for Humanity and when did you get involved?

Oosterhouse: I’ve been involved with Habitat for quite some time. Growing up I had always worked with Habitat. During college my various friends and I would do builds with Habitat and then even after that. Our project that we’re working on now is called our Build Smart Breathe Easier campaign and it’s in conjunction with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of Americaas well as Merck. What we’re doing is building homes in areas to show health in four different areas throughout the U.S. We’re building in Atlanta, Philly, Los Angelis and Detroit and we’re showing how homes can be asthma-healthy homes.

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And of course Habitat does a fantastic job building homes with homeowners themselves and creating a space where homeowners can live but we’re showing how you can build a home and make it asthma-healthy through various features in the home. So people with asthma or asthma-like conditions they don’t have to suffer on a dally basis. It’s generally bringing awareness to people with asthma and bringing awareness to builders and giving them little pointers here and there.

Q: So you’re basically a spokesperson but you also help with the builds as well?

Oosterhouse: Exactly.

Q: Why does this charity resonate with you?

Oosterhouse: I think obviously as a builder myself, I’ve been building since I was 14 years old, it’s easy to get behind a nonprofit like Habitat for Humanity. It’s easy to get behind a project like the Build Smart Breathe Easy campaign because on the shows that I work on [I] make homes that are greener, more eco-friendly and reduce consumption, and this falls in line with that.

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It’s how you make choices within your home. Or [if you] are building a home [there] are asthma healthy choices and for me that goes hand and hand with it. Whether it’s the materials that you use [or] the products that you use. For instance cleaning products, whatever they may be, it’s really easy for me to get behind products like that.

Q: Is there a moving moment you’ve had while working with Habitat for Humanity?

Oosterhouse: You know at the end of the day all of these builds that I work on, whether they are on TV or little projects here or there, the most moving moment is people seeing the finished result. That is sort of like the peak of that project when the person realizes what they have and what they’re able to enjoy. It’s just a really good feel good moment.

Update to interview:
Since this interview, the Build Smart, Breathe Easier Campaign has been very busy. Partnered with Habitat for Humanity, Merck and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), Carter has built two new homes for families in need with many more on the way.

Anna Johnson lives in Philadelphia with her 18-year-old daughter Tatiana. Tatiana struggles with asthma and cognitive impairment. Tatiana and her mom live in a home with roof and water damage, moldy carpets and poor electrical wiring.

In Los Angles, Martha Partida and her family live in a house with bad insulation and mold. Martha’s children Johnathan, 6, and Cindy, 15, have asthma and the home has become a serious health hazard to them both.

Thanks to Build Smart, Breathe Easier, Tatiana, Johnathan, Cindy and their families will not have to worry about poor home conditions anymore.  On Nov. 12, Carter hosted a ceremony where the Johnson family received keys and a tour of their brand new home. Three days later, the Partida family received a new home as well. Both homes were equipped with asthma-healthy features including hard-surfacing flooring, paint with a VOC (volatile organic compound)-free finish, heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) filters with high minimum efficiency reporting value ratings and advanced framing techniques. These techniques allow for heavy insulation of exterior walls and reduce the amount of moisture infiltration. These features are all based on the principals from AAFA’s asthma- and allergy-friendly certification program.

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