Linda Fuller, co-founder
Linda Fuller, with her husband, Millard, founded Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI). They launched this ecumenical Christian housing ministry in 1976, after pioneering a low-cost housing program in rural southwest Georgia, (1968-1972) followed by three years of similar work in the African country of Zaire (1973-1976). Since then, their leadership has helped forge this Christian movement into a worldwide housing ministry, standing as a beacon of success in the face of a low-income housing crisis.
While Linda was earning her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, her husband and a fellow attorney/businessman began a marketing firm. Their business expertise and drive made them millionaires in their twenties. But as the business prospered, the Fullers’ marriage suffered.
This crisis prompted the Fullers to reevaluate their values and direction. Their “soul-searching” led to reconciliation with each other and to a renewal of their Christian commitment.
The Fullers then took a drastic step: they decided to sell all of their possessions, give the money to the poor, and begin searching for a new focus for their lives. This search led them to Koinonia Farm, a Christian community located near Americus, where people were looking for practical ways to apply Christ’s teachings.*
With Koinonia founder Clarence Jordan and a few others, the Fullers initiated several partnership enterprises, including a ministry in housing. They chose to build houses on a no-profit, no-interest basis, thus making homes affordable to families with low incomes and no means to access conventional financing.
In 1973, the Fullers moved to Africa with their four children to test the model overseas. They went to Zaire with sponsorship from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The housing project was a success and became a working reality in that developing nation. The Fullers became convinced that this model could be expanded and applied all over the world. The no-profit, no-interest components of the program are based on a passage in the Bible advising that someone lending money to the poor should not act as a creditor and charge interest (Exodus 22:25).
Upon their return home in 1976, they met with members of the Koinonia community and several people from across the U.S. and decided to create a new, independent organization called Habitat for Humanity International and to devote all their energies to eliminating poverty housing throughout the world.
When they were forced to leave Habitat for Humanity International in early 2005, they founded a new organization called The Fuller Center for Housing to continue their calling by raising funds to assist low-income housing groups in developing affordable housing.
Also in 2005, Linda co-authored “Woman to Woman Wisdom, Inspiration for Real Life” with Bettie Youngs and Donna Schuller. Maya Angelou praised the book, calling it: “Profound, a ‘must have’ book for legions of women. It is a tender work…and a serious one.”
One of the many prestigious awards Linda and Millard Fuller have received is the Harry S. Truman Public Service Award in 1994. Linda has also received seven honorary doctorate degrees.
The Fullers were married close to five decades before his sudden and unexpected death in February 2009. They have four grown children and nine grandchildren who live in Georgia, Texas and Florida.
On June 20, 2011, Linda married Paul Degelmann of Americus, Ga. Linda remains active on Fuller Center build sites and continues to inspire volunteers, homeowner partners and countless others in her role as “The First Lady of Affordable Housing.” She and Paul often work as a team on Fuller Center build sites as he has embraced Linda’s mission to help families have simple, decent places to live.
In 2015, The Fuller Center launched the Lind-A Hand program — Linda Fuller’s Build for Women — in which all-women teams of volunteers build and repair homes.
* “Briars in the Cotton Patch: The Story of Koinonia Farm” – a 57-minute PBS documentary produced by Faith Fuller.