Fuller Center General

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

Before this past October, I'd never set foot in the state of Louisiana. Now, it seems like I hear more about Louisiana than about the greatest state in the nation. (That would be my home state of Georgia, by the way, in case you're keeping score.) Louisiana has its stamp all over my work lately and even all over my favorite sport, football.

We're having our covenant partner conference in Americus starting Friday, and I've found out that more than a dozen folks from Louisiana will be there. They include familiar faces like Charlie Park, who leads the Webster Parish Fuller Center that hosted the Legacy Build in Minden in October; Tamara Danel of Ginger Ford Northshore; and Lee Jeter, who leads the Northwest Louisiana Fuller Center in the Allendale community of Shreveport, one of our most amazing success stories. And, today, we announced that we've got a new covenant partner in New Iberia, La. I'm sure they'll add to the amazing track record of successes among our Louisiana covenant partners.

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

Unlike so many folks I've met since I joined The Fuller Center for Housing, I didn't have a friendship, relationship or professional association with our founder, Millard Fuller, who would have turned 77 years old today.

I met him a couple of times during the mid-1990s when I worked at the Americus Times-Recorder newspaper. The only conversation I recall having was during a golf tournament in 1994 at the local Brickyard Golf Club, which hosted a Futures Tour event that benefited Habitat for Humanity when Fuller was at the helm of the organization.

Of course, he put his arm around me and talked to me as if it were the 200th conversation we'd had and we'd known each other since 1935. I'd like to think that I'm just that engaging of a human being, but apparently it was the other way around. Millard had the unique ability to not only change the lives of thousands of people but also to make each and every person he talked to, no matter which rung they occupied on the ladder of life, feel like the most important person in the room.

The next year, I was lucky enough the next year to have a conversation with another man who changed a lot of lives, former President Jimmy Carter. We met while playing softball at Plains Days or some event like that in his hometown. It was there I learned how the Secret Service serves as umpires when the president plays softball and, therefore, he NEVER strikes out no matter how many times he swings and misses.

Millard and I talked golf. President Carter and I talked baseball, Braves baseball to be exact. Neither man acted as if he were anything other than just another guy on the street. And neither acted as if I were anywhere below them on the ladder of life … even though I most definitely was.

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

It was a bittersweet day here at the headquarters of The Fuller Center for Housing. It was communications specialist Leah Gernetzke's last day. Leah will be working as a volunteer with Jubilee Partners, which sprung from Koinonia Farm much like The Fuller Center did.

Jubilee is run by Don Mosley, who has a passion for peace and for helping people, especially those who have come to the United States from other countries seeking a better life for their families.

Leah will be remembered for many things around here. For being the coldest person to ever set foot in Louisiana … even though she's from Wisconsin, something she was reminded of about 27 times during the 2011 Legacy Build as she shivered underneath her hood and scarf while holding coffee with her gloves. For a flat tire that made her late for her own birthday party at the office … leading many young men to nearly injure themselves rushing to her aid. But, mainly, for being so quietly effective at doing so many different things.

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

The University of Cincinnati students working with The Fuller Center's Americus-Sumter covenant partner on the home of Nelmile Walker through their “Serve Beyond Cincinnati” group got more than they bargained for today.

They came to spend this past week, a good chunk of their holidays, for one main reason -- to serve others. They also came because they enjoy the work. They came because they believe in our mission. They came to see a historic place, Koinonia Farm, where the world's affordable housing movement was born, giving rise to Habitat for Humanity and The Fuller Center for Housing. They came for fun. They came for camaraderie.

But they got something this morning they won't soon forget. Linda Fuller, who helped launch the affordable housing movement with Millard Fuller decades ago, sat down on the floor of Fuller Center headquarters this morning as the students circled around her.

They got a history lesson as she told how the story of how Habitat and The Fuller Center were launched from ideas formed during their days at Koinonia. There's history you get from books and history you get from TV and the internet, but you can't beat history as recounted directly by those who made it.

By Leah Gernetzke
Communications specialist

Restoring water pipes, tile, cabinets, fixing drywall and replacing windows – that’s what’s on the agenda this week for students from the University of Cincinnati's volunteer group "Serve Beyond Cincinnati," who are rolling up their sleeves so Nelmile Walker and her granddaughter can move back home.

Ever since the pipes exploded in her house several months ago, flooding the kitchen and back rooms, Walker and her granddaughter have been living with Walker’s daughter in Americus.

Today was the first day of work on the home, and when I stopped by the site this morning, activity already abounded. The volunteers dragged out furniture and other personal items so they could start the renovation work. A roaring bonfire nearby served dual functions of keeping the volunteers warm in the chilly, damp December weather and consuming old pieces of unused furniture.

“I sure do appreciate y’all coming out here,” Walker said repeatedly, working side by side with the volunteers and with her daughter to renovate the home she’s lived in for more than a decade.

After a few months of vacancy, several critters took over the residence. A scream followed by a group of college girls running outside evidenced the presence of a rat, and a few cockroaches crawled around as well. A huge, sleepy-looking brown dog named Little Bear hovered outside by an old guitar, watching over the back-and-forth bustle.