Fuller Center General

Little things mean a lot (Part 2)

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

This week, I'm sharing some of the cool little ways we're spreading our message for free … or at super low costs.

Here's kind of a fun one. You've probably seen versions of this on Facebook with various other causes. Basically, you try to find a message that people want to be associated with and give them an easy way to attach it to their profile picture in their Facebook feeds. Our graphic artist Richard Aguirre designed this, and the arrow points straight to the picture of the person who shares the image. Kinda cool huh?

If people like the photo and the message (and, again, nobody seems to be against helping people help themselves as we do at The Fuller Center for Housing), then they are likely to click “share” on such a photo and it appears next to their picture. And if their friends like it, they might share it … and so on and so forth.

The point is that the more it's shared, the more people get a glimpse of what we do here. It's more likely to get shared than a long story … which kind of stinks for writers like me who love to tell a story with words more than with graphics, pictures and video. Oh well, it's the short-attention-span world we live in and my immense literary genius is just going to waste!

There's one example at the top right and a simple explanation of how it works below. Be sure to go to our Facebook page and pick out one of these images you like best. I personally like the cute little girl below from Peru (who lives in a Fuller Center home, and you can see a video of her by clicking here), but some folks might like the one above that shows more folks in action. It's your choice. All I ask is that if you agree with the message, just take the fleeting moment it requires to click share. That fleeting moment of your time could change somebody's life!



 

Little things mean a lot (Part 1)

By Chris Johnson
Director of Communications

Whether you love or hate Facebook, there's no doubting its impact on society. Not only does it allow each and every person to have a say on matters from the trivial to the life-changing, but it helps organizations like The Fuller Center for Housing to spread awareness of our great work … without great cost.

Not that we have anything against paid advertising, but anytime it's possible to spread our message at no cost, that's the path we choose. That allows more funds to go directly to our mission -- making sure people have access to simple, decent, affordable housing.

This week, I'll share some of the cool little ways we're spreading our message for free … or at super low costs. It's a product of a lot of learning and a little common sense.

We've been experimenting with interesting ways to engage Facebook users, especially those who are not already friends of The Fuller Center but who are likely to support our work. And the best thing is we're not trying to “sell” ourselves. We're just letting people know who we are and what we do. You don't have to “sell” a mission like ours. You just have to get people to get a glimpse of it.

So the first little experiment I'll share this week is this quote from founder Millard Fuller. It's not my favorite quote, although I definitely agree with it. I'll use his best quotes later on. I just wanted to see if folks out there on Facebook would like to see and share this quote and photo of Millard.

They did. They shared it with many friends. In fact, it's the most shared item we've had in the history of our Facebook page, and we can't even calculate how many other times it's been shared out of our realm of measurement. But between those shares and about $15 I spent out of my own pocket (let's call it an extra donation this month), we multiplied our usual Facebook reach about six-fold. And you'll see more such quotes in the future, though we won't wear out that approach to garnering attention on Facebook.

It's just one of many seemingly little things we're doing that attract a lot of attention, and I'll share more this week. Some folks might think it's silly or a trick or whatever, but it has been seen by thousands of people, including thousands who had never even heard of The Fuller Center for Housing.

There's no mathematical formula that X amount of awareness equals Y amount of dollars. But it's a pretty safe assumption that zero amount of awareness equals zero amount of dollars. And it's the donations of people like you who make our ministry possible. And we're going to seek out even more people like you.

I think Millard would approve.
 

Listen to the Judge - National Day of Prayer May 3, 2012

By Kirk Lyman-Barner
Director of U.S. Field Operations

Virtually visit the far corners of the world

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

I've spent an awful lot of time with my headphones on this week. When I was in the newspaper business, that was my signal to co-workers that I had about eight hours' worth of work to do in the crazy three hours before the nightly deadline and that should they attempt to disturb or distract me by pulling me away from the smooth jazz or Jimmy Buffett being pumped into my brain, then they were doing so at great risk.

But this week I've spent a lot of time wearing my headphones because I've been sorting through the many videos Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola brought back from his journey to our Fuller Center operations in Sri Lanka, India and then Nepal. That's a pretty exotic two-week journey.

The videos with which he returned provide quite the window into the world. And, now that I'm done, I can take my headphones off for a bit and rejoin society. But after all that editing, I want to make sure it gets seen, so please check out and share them on your Facebook pages or email them to friends. If you're like me, seeing all these images and videos will make you want to go.

And, best of all, you can go. Go to our Global Builders page at GlobalBuilders.org and learn how you can join or lead a trip to one of these exotic lands or another country where we are very busy, such as Armenia, Haiti, El Salvador or Peru.

So, please, click the links below and enjoy these windows into a far, exotic corner of the world.

 

Sri Lanka video

India video

Nepal video


Sri Lanka photos

India photos

Nepal photos


Sri Lanka story

India story

Nepal story


 

Louisville mayor GETS IT

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

The Fuller Center for Housing does not build with government funds. It's the way founder Millard Fuller wanted it. He preferred the financial path to building be from Jesus to your heart to the home with as few stops as possible along the way.

There's nothing necessarily wrong with utilizing government funds, but it comes with a lot of red tape, sometimes enough red tape to keep you from achieving a goal. Our goal is to help people achieve the dream of affordable home ownership, pure and simple.

But, governments, especially city governments, can still play a significant role in helping us achieve our goal. Usually, we find city leaders such as mayors and councilors to be supporters of our work. After all, who is against helping people achieve home ownership with a hand-up approach? No one seems to be against helping people help themselves.

And when we get city leaders to truly understand what we do and how it can benefit their city's neighborhoods -- making them look good in the process -- they become enthusiastic supporters of our work.

One of those enthusiastic supporters is Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, Ky., where our Fuller Center of Louisville covenant partner carries the flag for our Save a House/Make a Home initiative. Our Louisville crowd is quite experienced in turning vacant houses into new homes and, in doing so, resurrecting a once-proud neighborhood that had been dragged down by vacant homes and the many problems they draw into a community -- such as drugs, crime and falling home prices.

At last week's home dedication for Carolyn Mayes (which you can read about here), his genuine appreciation for The Fuller Center's work was evident. More impressive is that he gets it. It's so refreshing when a politician gets it. He truly understands the value of our giving vacant houses new life, and he demonstrates an earnest fondness for the many people who partner in Louisville to make such community renewal possible.

(Click here to watch this video produced by the City of Louisville, and you'll see exactly what I mean. Oh, by the way, you'll also hear one of the most inspiring invocations ever given by a pastor at a Fuller Center home dedication, and that's truly saying something!)

The Save a Home squeeze

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

I remember the first time I met Fuller Center for Housing founder Millard Fuller. I wasn't involved in any way with the affordable housing movement. I was merely an overworked sportswriter with high blood pressure at the age of 23.

I was covering a Futures Tour golf tournament (sort of the minor league of women's golf) at the Brickyard Plantation golf club outside of Americus in 1994. Among the notables in the tournament was Australian Karrie Webb. She was unknown at the time, but she has since earned more than $16 million and won 38 times on the LPGA Tour, more than any other active player. She finished third at the Brickyard that year, but I'll remember her more for glaring at her caddie during the final round for laughing when a pig on an adjacent farm loudly squealed as she attempted and missed a short putt. Judging by the look she gave him, he's lucky to be alive.

Only in Americus can we mix pigs and golf.

Anyway, I'd been covering the tournament and had spent a good bit of time putting together the program for the event, which that year benefited Habitat for Humanity. On the final day, Millard came up and hugged me and told me what a great job I'd been doing.

That he may or may not have actually been following what I was doing and had any basis to give me credit for a good job wasn't the issue. He hugged me. This man who had changed the world and redefined what charity meant hugged me. I wasn't the touchy-feely type, and I'd have been perfectly fine with a handshake, but the man was a hugger. My compliment came with a hug, and compliments are very hard to come by for small-town sportswriters, so I had to take it.

Which leads me to our Save a House/Make a Home initiative. Well, in a roundabout way. Our Fuller Center covenant partner in Louisville, Ky., will have a home dedication at 10 a.m. CDT Wednesday for Carolyn Mayes. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will be there to present the keys. It's a home that was foreclosed upon, sat vacant for a year and was refurbished into a simple, decent home for Ms. Mayes, her daughter and two grandsons through the hard work of FCH Louisville, supporters, volunteers and partners.

Grace Patterson, who leads FCH Louisville's family selection committee, told me of Ms. Mayes, a cancer survivor and long-time FCH supporter: “She gives great hugs.” Actually, Grace told me much more about Ms. Mayes' amazing spirit that you can read later this week, but I found it interesting that Grace pointed out the hugging.

Outkicking my coverage in Key West

By Chris Johnson
Director of Communications

Time for some utterly selfish blogging … well, almost utterly selfish.

I'm taking off on Monday, April 2, for Key West, Fla. No I'm not going to scope out a spot on the island that will mark the end of the line for the East Coast portion of this year's Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure. I'm not going to soak up rays or visit the Jimmy Buffett shrine of Margaritaville. (Although, I will do all of the above.)

No, I'm going to tie the knot with my fiancee Shellie before she wises up and changes her mind. I mean, everybody is very happy for me, but to a person everyone seems to wonder why she's with me. I've wondered it for a good while myself. So, I've got to seal this deal before Shellie starts wondering. It'll be Monday, April 2, on the beach at sunset. We thought about doing it that Sunday, but setting a date better known as April Fools Day seemed like it might be a bad omen.

I guess sometimes you just get lucky. And I'm definitely feeling lucky right now. Lucky to work for an enterprise whose sole mission is to help people, not to make a buck. Lucky that I get to tell success stories that practically tell themselves. Lucky to be back living in an area I consider home. Lucky to have a straight-A student in the sixth grade. Lucky to see my family and extended family grow. And lucky to have a bride who is not just beautiful, but also smart, fun, kind, outgoing and generous. We often preach how it's better to give than to receive. Telling that to Shellie definitely is preaching to the choir.

When Shellie first met my colleagues back in the newspaper business, a co-worker made the comment: “Wow, Chris, you really outkicked your coverage!” It's a football metaphor that essentially means you've aimed way higher than you can justify. At The Fuller Center, I got a similar reaction but with fewer sports metaphors when folks met Shellie. As Fuller Center President David Snell, my boss, said more straightforwardly: “Shellie's really nice. What's she doing with you?”

Linda's real stars

By Chris Johnson
Director of Communications

This past weekend in McDonough, Ga., the Henry County Fuller Center for Housing, which will host the U.S. portion of the 2012 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in September, held a spaghetti dinner that served as both a fundraiser and an awareness event to promote their past, current and future work.

Henry County FCH President Shane Persaud was fortunate enough to land a special guest for the event, a woman whose life of service has literally changed the lives of millions of people -- Linda Fuller Degelmann.

Of course, it's easy to forget that Linda has done so much for people around the world because she's so darn down to Earth. But one thing I've noticed about our co-founder is that something a lot of people say about her is not true. She does not treat everyone equally.

Allow me to explain: Linda has rubbed shoulders with celebrities and heads of state. She's met famous folks left and right and treats them as if they're just normal folks. She's not awed by others' power and fame. After all, she's pretty famous and she sees herself as just a normal person.

However, I've noticed that, on the other hand, Linda does give homeowner partners star treatment. It's not some calculated effort on her part, and I suspect she hasn't noticed it herself. But nothing seems to touch Linda more than having relationships with volunteers, supporters and, more than anything, homeowner partners (who often become supporters and volunteers themselves). They are the “stars” to Linda.

Simple and decent can be simply beautiful

By Chris Johnson
Director of communications

I've finally counted all of the photos available for you to peruse and download from The Fuller Center's photo collection and -- using the brilliant math skills I acquired while taking Algebra II twice in high school -- have come up with the total there are to see.

You count the number of galleries, multiply by the subtotal of subcategories, exponentially quintupled proportionally to the power of seven, divide by pi, and you get the official total of Fuller Center photos: A LOT.

Having gone through this official total of “a lot” of Fuller Center photos, there are a few that stand out to me. The ones of cute kids smiling always make me pause. The scenery from places like Nepal and Peru makes me stare for a moment and wish I could go there soon. And there are even a few photos of myself that make me stop and say, “Gee whiz, I know I've got more hair than that!”

One of the more striking photos I've seen recently is the one accompanying this blog post. I received it earlier this week from the group One Small House, which built a duplex last week with the Grace Fuller Center in Haiti during a trip through our Global Builders program.

I've seen many photos from Haiti in recent years. I've seen crying children. I've seen earthquake destruction. I've seen trash in the streets. And, of course, I've seen the crowded tent cities and rows of pitiful shacks.

I've also seen photos of our work there. Smiling children. Green spaces and fertile hills outside the dirty city. A growing, self-sustaining community. Simple, decent duplexes. But this photo stopped me, and many others here, in my tracks for its striking colors and stunning beauty.

Spring, sweat and smiles

By Chris Johnson
Director of Communications

As I'm writing this, spring is in full bloom here in beautiful Americus, Ga., where it's a mostly sunny 82 degrees at the headquarters of The Fuller Center for Housing.

Yeah, yeah, I know the Ides of March doesn't quite mark the official beginning of spring, but it's unofficially marked all over the place around here. And that's OK with me. In fact, for years I've lobbied Congress to do away with winter and go to a calendar of two months of fall, five months of spring and five months of summer. But they don't listen to me. If they did, we'd also have a balanced budget thanks to my program that would encourage all Americans to just one day dig between their sofa cushions and donate everything they find to the government.

So I have to endure each winter, and I seriously believe I suffer from Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder, or what's more commonly referred to as the “winter blahs”. Of course, of all the disorders I probably have, it's likely way down the list.

It's not hard to see the signs of spring around here. The sun sets later. The days are warmer. Yellow pollen coats my black truck so much that it looks like a rolling Pittsburgh Steeler. I had to pick up my son from school today for the first time this school year because allergies have hit him hard. And everything is in bloom. It's been so nice here that even our artificial plants are blooming.

Early last week, sure signs of spring came in the form of spring breakers from Davidson College and Penn State University, who were working with a couple of covenant partners around here as alternative service breaks. Few things are as uplifting as seeing service-minded youths giving of themselves and having a good time in the process. They gave me new energy. (Read and see a video about those groups here.)