Legacy Build Day 4: For Doug Miller this week is all about one day — Dedication Day

Legacy Build Day 4: For Doug Miller this week is all about one day — Dedication Day

(Photo: Doug Miller is serving as a block captain at this year’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis. He has been to numerous builds in the U.S. and internationally and is a generous financial supporter of The Fuller Center for Housing’s work.)

The Millard Fuller Legacy Build is a weeklong project, but for longtime Fuller volunteer and supporter Doug Miller, it all builds up to a single day … actually, a single moment.

“I love the dedication,” he said Thursday where volunteers scrambled to get exteriors done before rain moved in with a near 100 percent chance of precipitation for Friday’s Dedication Day. “When it’s done, you feel like a million bucks and it’s a little bit of payback.”

Miller first got involved with Millard Fuller’s affordable housing ministry in 1999, when he participated in the Jimmy Carter Work Project in The Philippines. It was there that he got to know Fuller and meet President Carter, who years later would welcome Doug and wife Jill to their home in Plains to thank them personally for their financial support of The Fuller Center for Housing. According to Miller, he almost had no choice but to become a mainstay of the ministry.

“If I didn’t show up for a build,” he’d call, Miller said with a chuckle as he recalled his relationship with Fuller. “Naturally, I had to go. He was very persuasive. From that day in Manila on, I’ve been behind Millard and Linda and David Snell.”

As a block captain, Miller is keeping his eye on multiple work sites at this year’s build rather than swinging his hammer at a single house. But whatever role he can perform with The Fuller Center, he’s happy to do so — whether it’s shoveling mortar in Nicaragua or helping solve the urgent issues that constantly pop up during a blitz build like this one.

“Usually the chaos is the first four or five hours,” he said of blitz days. “You’ve got hundreds of people coming together with different personalities, different egos — all with a big heart and wanting to do the right thing. By five or six o’clock, we’re all going to eat and everybody is now on a team. And it works. … All in all, I don’t think anybody has a complaint at the end of the week.”

Brothers Ray and Eldon Graber outside the house where two other brothers, Merle and Steve Graber also are working.

ELDON GRABER, Phoenix, Arizona

Another fixture on these builds is Mr. Graber. Of course, when you say “Mr. Graber” on a Fuller Center Legacy Build site, you have to be a lot more specific as that could mean any of the Graber brothers — Merle, Ray, Steve or Eldon.

“It’s a family thing,” Eldon said of the brothers getting together on blitz builds, adding that he has been on about a dozen between The Fuller Center and Habitat for Humanity. “We like to go together and talk some of our friends into going along.”

Of course, having a few Graber boys on the site is not just about a family reunion. They are all expert builders, and that makes for a smooth build, especially when they do succeed in talking friends into going along.

“We know we’ve got experienced help to spread out with the younger kids and whoever to just make the project go easier,” Eldon said.

Longtime Tuxedo Park resident Brenda Dennis chats with volunteers at a home site on North Bradley Avenue.

BRENDA DENNIS, Tuxedo Park resident

Brenda Dennis has lived on the corner of New York Street and North Bradley Avenue for three decades — during which time there have been no home building permits issued in her zip code  … until now. And she welcomes the construction noise as she walks the street visiting with the volunteers who are making this possible and thanking them for their service.

“Haven’t seen any new ones at all,” she said of homes in the area. “I’ve seen a lot of them go down. I love to see this rebuilding, bringing back our neighborhood — taking it back for the right people.”

The “right people” include families like J.R. and Tia Morris and their four children, who will be moving into the Fuller Center home being built closest to her house on North Bradley. Dennis has checked in daily on the progress and visited with the family.

“Bringing back the neighborhood benefits all of us — especially the kids, our next generation,” she said, adding that she would be willing to put up with the noise all summer long if she had to. “I really appreciate it. It even makes other neighborhoods aware that they can come back, too. The ones who don’t want to do the right thing, we can get them away from our neighborhoods and take them back and build our city back.”



Legacy Build Day 3: Bear, Raptor quite welcome on work sites in Indianapolis

Legacy Build Day 3: Bear, Raptor quite welcome on work sites in Indianapolis

(Photo: Mike Walda shows 16-year-old volunteer Sierra Courtright how easy it is to install siding with the help of the Bear Clips he invented and donated for this year’s Legacy Build.)

The terms “bear” and “raptor” are not things you typically think of as house friendly. But in these two cases, we are talking about different animals altogether — namely Bear Clips and Raptor Synthetic Underlayments.

Bear Clips, invented by Mike Walda, help workers and volunteers who install siding such as Hardie Board to keep it even and properly spaced throughout the entire process while making the installation easier and faster.

Raptor Underlayments, created by John Reese, are much lighter than the felt that once was the standard underlayment beneath shingles and are safer and easier to roll out as they come in swaths up to 10 feet wide.

The Fuller Center had the pleasure of welcoming both of these wonderful men — each of whom donated their particular materials for the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build — to work sites in Indianapolis this week. Each took a moment to speak with us about their work.


As the inventor, manufacturer and distributor of Bear Clips, Mike Walda is about as much of an expert as you can possibly find when it comes to using the clips to properly install fiber cement siding such as that being used on the five new homes at this year’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis. To that extent, he has been on site all week to show volunteers how easy Bear Clips are to use.

“Bear Clips are the easiest way to install fiber cement siding,” Walda said of the product he invented and donated to this year’s build. “They are injection-molded plastic clips, injection-molded within two-thousandths of an inch of an inch and a quarter.”

Because the clips are manufactured with such specificity and accuracy, they can be placed atop each plank to hold the next plank with a J-hook at exactly the correct level. After nailing each board, clips are added to make way for the next board — and so on throughout the process.

“We can side a house in one day with people who have never used Hardie before in their life,” Walda said. “It’s clip, board, nail, clip, board, nail, clip, board, nail … that’s all it is. … Because that clip is a perfect inch and a quarter within two-thousandths, if you start out level, every board after that is going to be level. It’s 60 percent faster than a standard Hardie Board installation.”

Walda became acquainted with The Fuller Center’s affordable housing ministry while working on a project with A.J. Jewell, who leads the Central Florida Fuller Center for Housing in the Orlando area. Jewell connected him with The Fuller Center’s Brenda Barton, whom Walda told he would like to be a part of this project.

“It’s all about helping people and giving back and making it easy,” he said.

In addition to manufacturing Bear Clips, he also makes Bear Skins, which is joint flashing that goes where two horizontal planks meet. Again, simplicity is the name of the game for Bear Skins, which he also donated to the build.

“That’s basically a 6-by-12-inch Post It note,” he said in explaining its simplicity with a laugh. “I always said if you give the laziest man the job, he’ll find the easiest way to do it, and that’s me.”

Check out this gallery of Bear Clips in action at the Legacy Build:

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The motivation that led John Reese to create Raptor Synthetic Underlayment originally had nothing to do with making an easier-to-use product to go between wood decking and shingles. He was simply trying to keep people from falling off of roofs as they worked.

In fact, he was making safety videos for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in which he would test the safety of various underlayments by spraying them with water and then trying to walk on them — sometimes slipping. He said jokingly, “The first rule is that if you don’t want to fall, don’t slip.”

John Reese with Stacey Odom-Driggers, The Fuller Center’s Director of U.S. Covenant Partner Development

Easier said than done!

Halfway around the world, a man in India took notice of these videos when Reese said in one that synthetic underlayments might be safer but were too expensive.

“This guy showed up from India and said, ‘Why don’t you help me make an underlayment?'” Reese recalled. Reese said he would if they could come up with one they could walk on safely, could be installed with regular roofing nails and was about same price as felt. “After about eight tries and three trips from India, finally we came up with Raptor.”

Raptor rolls come in sizes up to 10 feet wide — much wider than typical felt rolls — and can be printed with almost any design their customers desire. For the Raptor Underlayment that Reese donated for use at the Legacy Build, he was happy to oblige the host Fuller Center of Central Indiana’s wish to have American flags printed upon them. It has many selling points, but for Reese the biggest selling point always has been safety.

“All I was trying to do was to make an underlayment that people could walk on,” he said, adding that Raptor is now sold across the country. “You can walk on it on an 8-12 pitch in the rain or a 10-12 in the rain. It has more traction — a lot of people have similar traction, and this is a good thing. But nobody should get on a roof with a slippery underlayment ever again. So it will save lives and keep people from getting hurt.”

His product is not only safer but it also speeds up the roofing process — not to mention that even his 10-foot-wide rolls weigh less than a single roll of felt.

“Within three minutes, you can put on 10 square,” said Reese, who also donated the coil nails recommended for installation in addition to the underlayment itself. “And it weighs 25 pounds for 10 square — that would be five rolls of 30-pound felt, and you know that’s heavy. The wider the roll, the less lap loss you have and the less waste. So it goes on faster and uses half the fasteners.”

View a short video of volunteers putting Raptor Underlayment on a roof at the Legacy Build:

Legacy Build Day 2: “So grateful to be a part of Millard’s legacy”

Legacy Build Day 2: “So grateful to be a part of Millard’s legacy”

Mark Bippes of Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, has long been a grateful man. But since battling cancer, gratitude permeates his life in everything that he does.

One thing Bippes has done for many years is help people have simple, decent places to live. It is an issue he became passionate about through his friendship with Millard Fuller — a friendship that dates back even before the Fullers launched Habitat for Humanity in 1976 and long before they founded The Fuller Center for Housing.

Bippes is especially grateful for the responsibility to serve as a house co-captain at this year’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis, where he is leading a build on Denney Street with a couple dozen volunteers, including a few regulars from his Morris Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

“Being here this week is extremely significant for me,” an emotional Bippes said Tuesday on the second day of the Legacy Build. “I was here seven years ago for the 2010 Legacy Build, and it was five and a half years ago that I came down with cancer and wasn’t able to do much of anything. I’ve been through an incredible amount. Just in the last year I’ve been able to get back out volunteering on site. This year I’m finally doing well enough that I decided to try something like this.”

Leading a house build — particularly during a one-week blitz — is an enormously stressful job but one that he relishes.

“I’m just trying to put my faith in Jesus into action,” he said. “I’ve been involved with Habitat since before the beginning, and my relationship with Millard Fuller is something that’s been extremely significant in my life. Having a Legacy Build is something that I am so grateful to be a part of. … The way Millard put faith into action, he was just so deeply committed.

“The bottom line is that we’re making a difference in the lives of the people who are going to be our homeowners,” added Bippes, whose homeowner partner is Paula White, a widow who will be living with her grandson. “I think that’s what really gives me the greatest amount of satisfaction and working along with the volunteers who are giving of their time and their resources and skills. Just being part of a team is so important.”

William and Margaret McKeller were married on May 27 of this year.


A couple hundred yards away on North Bradley Avenue, Margaret and William McKeller are feeling doubly blessed. They were just married on May 27, and soon they will have a decent place to live. They look at the rapid progress on their new home with a mix of gratitude and disbelief.

“It’s a blessing to see all these people volunteering, coming from all over the country,” William said. “And they’re not getting paid to do it. You can’t get a better blessing than that. It’s amazing.”

Both Margaret and William were born and raised and have lived their entire lives in Indianapolis. They currently live in apartment about two miles from the Legacy Build site. Their adult children worry about their ability to safely get in and out of the apartment due to the knee problems each suffers.

“We got married and now we’re going to own our own home,” Margaret said. “It’s such a blessing.”

Of course, they know a little about blessing others. Margaret works for Dove Recovery House, a women’s shelter that works helps women with dependency problems get clean and back as productive members of society, while William works at a food pantry and does prison ministry work with his pastor.

Al Harano is working on his first Fuller Center project.


One of those volunteers who has given time and resources to help the McKellers have a good home is Al Harano of San Jose, California. Amid all the chaos and fervor surrounding him during a blitz week, he has maintained an almost constant smile and ease on the house co-captained by husband-and-wife team Mary Lou Bowman and Russ Cubbin.

Harano began volunteering on Habitat projects after Hurricane Katrina, but this is his first Fuller Center build. His friend Steve Lumpp (a house co-captain across the street) encouraged him to register for this week’s Legacy Build.

“Since I’ve been around to a lot of different affiliates across the country, I’ve learned everybody’s got their own way of doing things so you just kinda go with the flow,” he said with almost stereotypical West Coast cool. “But all of the workers we have are all pretty good. And Mary Lou and Russ have been great.”

He also has been impressed with the youthful contingent of volunteers associated with Nazarene churches in town for a conference.

“The young church people here are really good and really enthusiastic,” he said. “They get stuff done, and you don’t have to keep watching them. So, it’s been a really good build.”



Legacy Build Day 1: Build boosts optimism for new homeowners, neighbors in Indianapolis

Legacy Build Day 1: Build boosts optimism for new homeowners, neighbors in Indianapolis

Day one of the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build is in the books in Indianapolis with five new houses well under way in the east Indianapolis neighborhood best known as Tuxedo Park.

But don’t let the name fool you. This is hardly a ritzy area. There is a plethora of run-down houses and vacant properties. Many windows are covered with boards, while some homes are in even worse shape with collapsing roofs or fire damage. Weeds dominate the front yards, and vines are strangling many of the homes.

However, dozens of Fuller Center for Housing volunteers from across the nation are providing a tremendous lift to Tuxedo Park this week. On Monday, they erected the walls and trusses for five new homes in the area — with Fuller Center of Central Indiana President Chuck Vogt noting that these are the first new home permits in this zip code in three decades.

Coolgroove Radio personality Harold Bell interviews Patricia Vernon, president of the Grace Tuxedo Park Neighborhood Association, who is thrilled to see The Fuller Center working in her area.


Patricia Vernon will not be living in any of the five new Fuller Center homes being built in her neighborhood, but she might have boasted the biggest and most enduring smile on Monday. She has lived in the same house on North Bradley Avenue for 78 years and has longed for a resurrection of the area she loves.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Vernon, who serves as president of the Grace Tuxedo Park Neighborhood Association. “I think it’s wonderful to see the young people and volunteers who have come in from The Fuller Center. I think it’s absolutely superb.”

Vernon spent Monday going back and forth on North Bradley with the help of her walker — thanking volunteers, chatting with the soon-to-be new homeowners and neighbors and even sitting down for a live, on-air interview with Coolgroove Radio personality Harold Bell who broadcast his show from the work site.

“I’d like to see us go back to the way things were when we could leave our doors unlocked and walk back and forth to the store without having a problem,” she said. “I’ve met the family that’s moving in across the street, and they’re wonderful. The whole neighborhood, we’re all going to be family.”

Tia and J.R. Morris will move into a new Fuller Center home on North Bradley Avenue with their four children.


The family across the street to which she was referring is the Morrisses — J.R. and Tia Morris and their four children.

“It’s a blessing,” Tia Morris said of seeing volunteers from across the nation come to work alongside her family. “I just pray over each and every one — every heart and hand that’s involved. I thank God for them.”

She added that she would become the first person in her family to be a homeowner, something which makes her more than happy to contribute the required sweat equity and future repayments.

“I’m so excited to even be allowed to participate in the process,” she said. “It’s nothing given. Everything is earned. The Lord has blessed us with this, but we do have to contribute time and we do have to pay for it. It’s a hand-up, and I really do appreciate that because a lot of people need that.”

Licia Keiser and her mother Lynn on the job site Monday.


Licia Keiser does not have any kids of her own, but her Fuller Center home likely will be bustling with even more youthful energy than the Morris house a block up the avenue. Keiser ministers to children in the area through her work with the nearby Shepherd Community Center, which works to try to break the cycle of poverty in the east side of Indianapolis.

“She’s been wanting to live in the neighborhood with the children she ministers,” her mother Lynn Keiser said while working alongside her daughter on Monday. “We prayed that she could find a house here, and God must want her here. It’s a true blessing from God. We see God working in that she’s here.”

“The kids are all over in this area,” Licia Keiser said. “When I came here, I knew that I wanted to live right where my kids were living, right where I’m working because I’m doing stuff with them all the time, and I want to be right where they are.”

The only people more excited about her move into the neighborhood may be the very children to whom she ministers.

“It will not be a quiet house,” she said with a laugh. “The kids have already asked me if they can help me move in, when we’re gonna have the first hangout at my house, when we’re gonna have a pizza party, if we’re gonna have a movie night, so they’re really excited to get to come over and hang out with me.”

CrossRoads Missions’ Raymond Bodley (left) and Dave Lockwood work closely with The Fuller Center’s Brenda Barton to help Fuller Center covenant partners obtain wall packages for their new home builds.


One of The Fuller Center for Housing’s most consistent in-kind partners is CrossRoads Missions, which provides pre-assembled wall packages for many new home builds. Working through its Help Build Hope program, volunteers assemble the walls per a house plan. The wall packages are delivered to Fuller Center covenant partners, allowing them to accelerate the building process.

Help Build Hope Project Coordinator Dave Lockwood visited the site Monday along with Help Build Hope Director of Engagement Raymond Bodley to see how their wall packages were being utilized in Indianapolis. You can see an interview with the two men below:

Day 1 photo gallery




Here’s how to add donate buttons on Facebook posts to support your favorite charity

Here’s how to add donate buttons on Facebook posts to support your favorite charity

Facebook is the world’s most popular social media platform, yet Facebook’s constant tweaking and “improvements” can drive you a bit crazy. However — at least for now until it gets tweaked out of existence — Facebook has a wonderful new feature that allows you add “donate” buttons to your posts so that you can help raise money for the causes you support. It’s just a few steps to do it, and I’m going to walk you through the process in a series of screenshots taken as I just shared a post to support my favorite nonprofit, The Fuller Center for Housing.

Here’s how that worked:


1. A post worth sharing

This is a wonderful story happening this month in West Point, Georgia. I think it’s the kind of story that can spur someone to support our nonprofit, which relies exclusively on private donations. So, I click the “share” button.


2. Share on Your Timeline


3. Click the icon to let folks know how you’re feeling

Now that’s not the kind of thing I’d normally do, and I certainly would not have thought this to be a crucial step in getting a donate button on your post, but, as you’ll see, it is indeed.


4. Scroll to “Supporting”


5. Select your favorite nonprofit

I selected The Fuller Center for Housing, of course. I started typing into the box and by the time I’d typed in “The Fuller …”, it came up as an option. Then, you just have to click it.


6. After you hit “POST”, you’ll see this note on your page

Hey, we’re almost there! Facebook has done the behind-the-scenes work, and all we’ve gotta do is say, “Shoot yeah, I want to raise money!” Then, click “Add Button.”


7. Optional but powerful: Peer-to-peer invites

This is a super-powerful way to alert people to your fundraiser that pops up after you hit “Add Button”. You can invite friends, family, co-workers, etc. to notice your fundraiser. I’d use this judiciously, however, because some folks might get tired of seeing your posts if they think “Oh, great! Another fundraiser!” But, on occasion, this can be very useful. You could even make a birthday post asking people to support your charity instead of buying you gifts. If you would like to skip invites for a particular post, simply click the “x” box at the top right.


8. And there’s your button!

That was easy, huh? Best wishes on spreading the word about your favorite charity and supporting their mission!


Advanced Rural Development Initiative boosts family businesses in Armenia

Advanced Rural Development Initiative boosts family businesses in Armenia

(Photo: With the help of the Advanced Rural Development Initiative, of which Fuller Center for Housing Armenia is an implementing partner, Amalia Evoyan was able to add a greenhouse to her family’s land and can now grow vegetables for sale nearly year-round.)

In 2013, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the Advanced Rural Development Initiative (ARDI) in Armenia, a five-year program to increase rural employment by easing constraints to economic development in three main provinces of the country — Syunik, Vayots Dzor and Lori. The program primarily focuses on supporting dairy processing, fruit processing and rural tourism.

To achieve their goals, however, they would need implementing partners who had already demonstrated success in empowering Armenian families. They found the perfect partners in Fuller Center for Housing Armenia and Heifer Project International’s Armenian branch office.

“In short, Fuller Center for Housing Armenia does hard investment, and Heifer does soft investment,” said Fuller Center Armenia’s Gohar Palyan, who serves as ARDI’s program coordinator. “Heifer is responsible for economic development and environmental, and Fuller Center Armenia is responsible for infrastructure.”

Palyan said that the program has been an overwhelming success and that she would love to see the program extended beyond its current end date of September 2018. She said she would love for the beneficiaries to continue their success and inspire continuation of the program. She also shared a handful of success stories from the ARDI program:

Yelpin, Vayots Dzor
Cheese production

Avag Nazaryan’s family owns a small farm with 40 dairy cows. They had the know-how and experience in cheese making, but they wanted to take the business to the next level — something that would require financial investment.

An ARDI grant helped Nazaryan purchase a vacuum-packing machine that increases the shelf life of the cheese, enhancing its safety and marketability. Their cheese made its way to Yeghegnadzor groceries and restaurants — and even in the big-city Yerevan supermarkets, including Yerevan City and Titan. Sales surged in their first six months since joining the program with distribution of six tons of cheese. They have since launched new lines as expansion continues.

“My goal is not only to enhance my family business but also to increase employment in the region,” Nazaryan said. “With new jobs, we can help our families to stay in the homeland and have income.”


Areni, Vayots Dzor
Bed and breakfast

David Simonyan, 24, is a hard working entrepreneur in the village of Areni, famous for its Areni grapes and wines. In 2014 he forged connections with various Armenian tour agencies and applied his family’s unique talents. He offered visitors to the village homemade lunch prepared by his mother and homemade wine made by his father. He also offered hiking tours and then expanded lunch offerings to include agritourism activities in which visitors to engage in wine making, bread baking, honey straining and cheese making.

Thinking bigger, Simonyan participated in ARDI’s entrepreneurial training and successfully applied to the project’s Small Grants Program. With significant investment of his own and microfinancing organizations, he turned his family’s home into a thriving bed and breakfast.

He remains determined to forge new partnerships in the community. In fact, a neighbor who worked with ARDI to develop a dried fruits operation now provides those products for the guests at Simonyan’s bed and breakfast.

“I really hope tourism develops in Areni village,” he said. “The opening of more hospitality centers will enhance our competitive advantage in the tourism market.”


Yeghegnut, Lori

The Evoyan family use every inch of soil on their small patch of land where they maintain a number of plants, trees and beehives. After completing ARDI entrepreneurship training and then receiving a small grant, she was able to establish a greenhouse that will operate nearly the entire year producing tree seedlings and produce— including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, coriander and parsley.

“I am excited not only that this is a new, diversified income for my family but also that it will save time and efforts for the neighboring communities to travel far for such produce,” said Evoyan, who moved back to her ancestors’ Yeghegnut village after the 1988 earthquake destroyed the family’s Vanazdor home. “After expansion, it will enable and open new employment opportunities for neighbors.


Yeghegnadzor, Vayots Dzor
Tasting hall

Susanna and Arman Asatryan have been engaged in rural tourism since 2013, running a unique tasting hall for their local products. Services include homemade meals and appetizers, as well as sampling of local wine, vodka and dried fruits.

Though their hall was already a destination preferred by several tour operators, the Asatryans were able to expand with the help of a small seed grant from ARDI. This grant, coupled with their own hard work and investment, helped them more than double the hall’s space from 20 square meters to 45 square meters.

Now, they are able to host more and larger groups, allowing them to not only increase their income but also to hire more people and create jobs in the community.


Yeghegnadzor, Vayots Dzor
Camping retreat

Svetlana Sevlikyan and her husband established their “Crossway” camping retreat in 2013 next to the crossroads of the Yerevann-Tatev-Sevan highways. It’s a beautiful area with decorative and fruit trees, a small fishing lake, camping areas, cabins, a swimming pool and a kitchens and bathrooms for those staying in tents.

There was just one problem — they were able to operate only in summer months and relatively warm spells of spring and autumn as cold weather and high energy costs put a dent in their business.

With the support of ARDI, they were able to buy two solar water heaters that decrease costs on utility payments and enable them to entertain guests anytime, not just during the summer. In 2016, business soared 59 percent.

Learn more about the ARDI program

United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries supports Fuller Center flood recovery in Louisiana

United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries supports Fuller Center flood recovery in Louisiana

(Photo: Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders Volunteer Coordinator Mary Glover with “Miss Elgie)

The Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders’ ongoing work to help Louisiana residents in the Livingston Parish area who are still dealing with the effects of last year’s historic flooding is getting a huge boost from the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries. The Disaster ReBuilders are working to help residents who have been unable to get help repairing flood damage through conventional means — such as insurance, government assistance or access to fair lines of credit. Priority is given to the elderly, handicapped, veterans and single parent families.

The United Church of Christ’s website features an article on a 90-year-old woman who had to be rescued from the home where she lived alone during last year’s flood. Hers is the first home repaired with help from UCC volunteers.

Click here to read the complete article on the UCC website.

Want to volunteer with the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders in Louisiana or have a team that would like to serve these families in need? Click here to learn more about the effort!

Boy’s Christmas wish for mother to have a decent home now taking shape

Boy’s Christmas wish for mother to have a decent home now taking shape

When Christmas approached, it was time yet again for K’Hairi to climb upon Santa Claus’ lap and ask for the same thing as the year before. The 7-year-old did not ask for toys or video games. He did not even ask for the jolly old elf to end his struggles with sickle-cell anemia.

Instead, he asked for Santa to help his mother, U.S. Army veteran Carla Ross, have a nice house.

Well, he did ask for a couple of other things — a fan and a heater to fight the heat and cold that penetrate the old mill-era shack in which they currently live and where Carla pays about $350 a month in power bills.

On Monday, June 12, K’Hairi’s wish began to take shape on Frank Hall Jr. Street in West Point, Georgia, as volunteers and community leaders worked under a blazing sun and smothering humidity to raise walls on the first day of a two-week blitz by the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project.

Not only will they be able celebrate this Christmas in a new, safe, comfortable home, but K’Hairi also will be able to celebrate his eighth birthday there at the end of July. And for a family dealing with the constant struggle of trying to pay the bills while fighting a disease like sickle-cell, an affordable, energy-efficient home is a dream come true. In fact, it was a dream she had given up on before Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts convinced her that this opportunity was within her reach.

“Ms. Kim had to hunt me down because I was thinking that because I’ve got bad credit it’s going to be too hard to do this,” said Ross, who was active duty in the U.S. Army from 1994-98 before serving in the Army Reserve and being deployed to Uzbekistan after 9/11. “I thought there was no need in trying because I don’t like disappointment. She finally called and said, ‘I’m not taking “no” for an answer.

“It is a blessing,” she added. “I didn’t think it could ever happen for me, and I’d sorta given up trying because every time I took a step forward a storm would hit me and set me back a couple of steps. It’s a wonderful feeling that it’s really going to happen.”



It is the fifth year that the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project has teamed up with Home Depot to help a veteran have a decent place to live, with Home Depot providing a $25,000 grant for the Ross build and Charter Bank contributing another $10,000. But the community support does not end there.

City officials — including Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Tramell and Fire Chief Milton Smith — were sweating it out Monday alongside other volunteers, including a team from New Birth Ministries, a yearlong addiction recovery program, and a crew from Perry’s Construction Company that included the boss, Michael Perry. The walls they are raising were provided by CrossRoads Missions and assembled by teams of students from Point University. Ten churches and businesses are providing meals for the workers, and the local Coca-Cola bottler is bringing water, sodas and ice. Meanwhile, a couple of Minnesotans — frequent Fuller Center volunteers Tim DuBois and Charlie Thell — are braving the Georgia heat to serve as house leaders for the build.

“It’s just been a whole flock of people from the community that have been involved,” Tramell said. “This is the group that will see the most dramatic change. This lets the community know that things are changing.”

West Point Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Tramell takes a look down Frank Hall Jr. Street on Monday with K’Hairi.

It is hardly the first time that Tramell has worked with The Fuller Center as he has helped on projects in West Point and in adjacent Lanett, Alabama, where the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project’s success is most visible and where Fuller Center founder Millard Fuller was born and raised. While this is the 37th home for Chattahoochee, it is the first new home build in West Point since Roberts joined the ministry eight years ago.

“It was huge that the citizens wanted The Fuller Center to start back building in West Point again,” said Roberts, adding that a group of local citizens responded to an effort by Tramell to pool money to purchase the lot on which Ross’ home and another will sit. “It’s exciting to have the mayor support you and have the town support you.”

For Tramell, drawing The Fuller Center back into West Point just makes good sense for the city.

“We had a great need in this area of town to do some redevelopment, and this is a new start for Frank Hall Jr. Street,” he said while wiping sweat from his forehead. “This is going to be the kickoff for hopefully a lot more things to come to beautify this street and this whole area. It’s something that’s been a long time coming, and we really needed it. This is a great start. We’ll just keep going right down the street.”


However, even if this build were happening in Lanett or nearby Valley, Alabama, Tramell probably would still be there working alongside volunteers. The build makes sense for revitalization in West Point, but his belief in the hand-up extended to families through this ministry is his main reason for serving on the build.

“K’Hairi is just as sweet as he can be, and Carla is just as deserving as she can be,” Tramell said. “It’s going to be a great thing to be able to get them out of the situation they are in and into something new and clean and safe and just wonderful.

“I love this work,” he added. “I wouldn’t miss it. I really enjoy being out here helping, and it’s a blessing to be able to help. One of these days, I’ll be too old to do this.”

West Point Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Tramell with Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts.

Roberts gets emotional — not that that’s unusual for the woman who hears joyous shouts of “Ms. Kim! Ms. Kim!” from Fuller Center homeowner partners’ children almost every day — simply knowing that another family will have a decent place to live and that a little boy battling illness will have a healthy place to grow up.

“When you can take people out of those situations and put them into something that they can afford and is decent, you’ve changed their life,” Roberts said. “And K’Hairi is just precious. And he’s sick, but he doesn’t show it. He’s always got a smile on his face.”

That smile was even bigger than usual on Monday.

He’s already picked out where he wants to be,” said Ross, who noted that K’Hairi had been ill since Memorial Day weekend, improving enough only this past Saturday to be on the job site. “He said, ‘That’s my room!’ It feels wonderful. This is amazing with all of these people coming out to help. It’s just awesome!”


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