Fuller Center General

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.

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

We had a Bunch of fun at Fuller Center headquarters yesterday … and not just because our work team made it safely to North Korea to begin a mission of home building and peacemaking that has garnered media attention worldwide. Granted, that was awesome, but that's not why we had a Bunch of fun with a capital B.

Gabrielle Bunch, who just turned 7 years old last week, is this year's “Junior Ambassador” and was in the office for the taping of a Christmas message that will be shared with all of our supporters and friends around the world.

Gabrielle was thrilled by the opportunity to talk about what the Fuller Center does. And let's face it, a cute 7-year-old in a festive red outfit is way more fun to listen to than I am. I'm a little past 7 years old and own no festive red outfits – which I blame exclusively for my lack of cuteness. You don't want to hear me talk about all the wonderful things we do.

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

This seems to be a real moment of opportunity for peace in North Korea. Today, South Korea announced it was restoring aid to its rival to the north. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), meanwhile, is demonstrating willingness to bend on its hard-line nuclear stances. And in the middle of all of this, six men from the United States are on a Fuller Center for Housing trip to build homes in the country. Read about it here.

This is a project like no other. American volunteers don't just hop in and out of North Korea. And it certainly has been no simple journey for our team. But they've stuck to the mission, a mission that it is about far more than houses.

Could the fact that we enter the country just as there seems to be a thaw in frigid relations between South Korea and the North – as well as the U.S. and North Korea – be divine influence? Maybe, perhaps, I dunno. But the simple fact that all this is happening right now is something to be thankful for, regardless.

Our mission to build homes and peace in North Korea was one of the last initiatives approved by our founder, Millard Fuller, and he was excited about its prospects. That we've seen this through, at least to the point of actually beginning the building, is satisfying for that reason alone, among the many other reasons.