There is more to some housing projects than first meets the eye

There is more to some housing projects than first meets the eye

Last week, I spent a little time with Mr. Earnest Solomon of Americus, Georgia. At 78, he still gets around his home fairly well. It almost makes you wonder why he needed a wheelchair ramp added to his home.

Actually, he didn’t. It was for his wife, Evelyn. As her health declined with her children living far away, they asked the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing if they could build a ramp for her.

“They were concerned about her falling,” said my friend Thad Harris, who is confined to a wheelchair himself and lives in a specially designed, ultra-accessible Fuller Center home of his own and who has become one of The Fuller Center’s most prolific volunteers as well as a local board member. “So, we agreed to help.”

Sadly, Evelyn passed away in February of this year. But the children asked if they could still tackle the project for Earnest before he lost mobility.

“They did a great job,” Earnest Solomon said of the volunteers who built the ramp behind his home.

“They’re looking out for me farther down the line — just in case,” Mr. Solomon said. “I’m a diabetic, so you never know. Plus, I’m getting up there in age, too.”

On the surface, a ramp project may not seem like a very big deal. But ramps like these allow many disabled and elderly residents to stay in the homes they love rather than moving in with relatives or into assisted-living facilities.

The Fuller Center builds new homes and repairs existing ones. We work with families to provide a better life for their children, with middle-aged formerly homeless folks who are putting their lives back together and with many seniors, including the disabled and veterans.

Maybe a ramp seems like a big deal to me because I saw how my grandfather struggled with mobility. He lost his legs to a German machine-gunner in Tunisia in 1943 as a member of the legendary 1st Ranger Battalion (“Darby’s Rangers”). First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about him, Cpl. Fred Dixon, in this column from Feb. 21, 1944, and this one from Feb. 25, 1944. He won a prize for selling war bonds on a national radio show and got to spend time with the first family at the White House, even having dinner with the family and going with them to see a performance by the National Symphony Orchestra.

In the decades that followed, life grew tougher for my grandfather. He went from war hero to forgotten veteran. Parking spaces for the disabled and wheelchair ramps were few and far between. They’ve become a far more common sight since he died in 1981. That’s great to see.

But there are those who still feel trapped in their inadequate homes. There are those who fear that the rotting floor in the bathroom will lead to a life-altering fall or that the leak in the roof will ultimately lead to their home’s demise.

I’d like to thank all of The Fuller Center’s financial supporters whose gifts have helped hundreds of good people like Mr. Solomon and Thad be comfortable in the homes they love. I’d also like to thank the volunteers who have worked on these kinds of projects, including those from Congregational United Church of Christ of St. Charles, Illinois, who helped Mr. Solomon on this project.

There are few things more exciting than seeing a team of volunteers raise that first wall on a brand new house where children will grow and have a strong foundation for success. But there are also few things more gratifying than hearing these two words from people like Mr. Solomon, who will get to stay in the homes they’ve grown to love over the years:

“THANK YOU!”

Please enjoy this slideshow of volunteers from Congregational UCC working on Mr. Solomon’s ramp:

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50 college students, 5 different communities and 1 amazing spring break

50 college students, 5 different communities and 1 amazing spring break

For the second straight year, a huge team of Wittenberg University students on spring break drove to the Southeast last week — not to hit the beaches but to hit nails … a whole lot of nails.

Fifty came from the Springfield, Ohio, school for alternative spring breaks last week — driving hundreds of miles before splitting into five groups working with Fuller Center for Housing covenant partners in Atlanta, Perry, Americus and Albany in Georgia and Tallahassee in Florida.

Here is a location-by-location glance at the students’ stops along with additional links to media reports and more:


 

GREATER ATLANTA FULLER CENTER FOR HOUSING

atl-group-2Board member Jackie Goodman made sure that students got an overview of the many sights, sounds and tastes of the Atlanta area, while Director Mark Galey kept the students busy during the day, including a project for a Jewish family. At a time when anti-Semitic acts have been rising, Galey was glad that the students could express their Christian love for others while witnessing The Fuller Center’s commitment to ecumenicalism and service to all of God’s people.

“We had an incredibly great experience last week, working in partnership with students from Wittenberg University as our Christian ministry made needed repairs to the home of a Jewish family whom we had learned about through a member of their synagogue,” Goodman said. “The synagogue member was a member of NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) who knew Mark Galey through that organization, and brought the family’s needs to our attention.  Construction management students from Gwinnett Tech joined us to help supervise the project.”

“The homeowners (husband, wife, and two teenagers) worked alongside the volunteers all week,” Goodman added. “The husband, who has been employed in a low-wage job at Rite-Aid for more than 20 years, was able to take a week of vacation in order to be able to help, and the wife, who is a seamstress and works at home, also assisted with painting and repairs. I think I speak for the entire group when I say we did our very best to show God’s love in action, and I think the homeowners felt the love! The Atlanta Fuller Center appreciates the hard work of the Wittenberg students and looks forward to our future association with Wittenberg and other groups who are committed to helping improve living conditions for families in need.”

Click here to view Atlanta participant Jasmine Bryant’s
outstanding video about the group’s experience in Georgia.


 

PERRY GEORGIA FULLER CENTER FOR HOUSING

perry-group-1In Perry, eight students worked with local President Warren Johnson and two local volunteers — Coy Goff and Michael Boden — to repair the roofs of two elderly women, including Velma Robinson, who has lived in the same house all of her life.

“There are some good people in the world,” Ms. Robinson said as the students scraped off old shingles a day before replacing them with CertainTeed shingles provided by World Vision. “It’s a blessing for these kids to give up their free time to come help somebody like this when they could be doing something else. And I do appreciate them, very much.”

“We built two roofs but I think the best part is just the community that we’ve been hanging out with in Perry,” student Becky Schmitthenner said. “It was a great way to spend our spring break instead of just partying on a beach. It was so meaningful.”

Jenn Downing also worked with the Perry Fuller Center during her 2016 spring break. She could have headed for the beach this year but instead chose to be a team leader and return to Perry.

“This is so much more rewarding,” she said. “You’re still with your friends, you get to meet amazing people in a new place and you know that someone benefits from what you’re doing. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Fuller Center Director of Communications Chris Johnson said the students’ visit helps the small-town covenant partner garner media attention (including this front-page centerpiece photo in the Macon Telegraph), renews the energy of local volunteers and enhances relationships with church partners, including First Baptist Church of Perry, which hosted the students in a vacant house on its property.

Perry’s Houston Home Journal newspaper published an
article about the students’ work that you can read at
this link.

High-resolution photo gallery.

Chris Johnson, a columnist for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer,
used the students’ visit as inspiration for his latest article.


 

AMERICUS-SUMTER FULLER CENTER FOR HOUSING

americus-group-1In Americus — also home to The Fuller Center’s international headquarters — the students worked on a couple of different projects, including restoring a donated home to decent condition and helping transform a space above the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center’s headquarters into a transitional housing space.

“I got here thinking that we were just going to be painting and flooring, and then they showed us this place and told us we would be building an apartment,” Jessica Skoglund said. “Seeing this entire apartment come together has been the best experience I’ve ever had on a mission trip, honestly.”

Rachael Fink appreciated being able to work alongside people like Thad Harris, an Americus-Sumter Fuller Center homeowner partner who also has become a local board member and one of The Fuller Center’s most prolific volunteers, inspiring hundreds of people while rolling around job sites in his wheelchair.

“Ive learned so much about the community and I’ve absolutely loved hearing stories about the people who work with the Fuller Center,” she said. “It’s just been an incredible experience. You can’t make a difference without knowing the story and knowing other people’s backgrounds.”

You can view multiple slideshows of the students’
work on the Americus-Sumter Facebook page.


 

ALBANY AREA FULLER CENTER FOR HOUSING

albany-group-2In Albany, students saw the widespread damage caused by two bouts with January storms, the second of which spawned a devastating tornado.

While helping Ricardo Miguel’s family repair damage to their storm-damaged mobile home, the Wittenberg students also helped put a major initiative on the map, sparking media coverage of Albany Twin Storms Relief. Also known as “A2,” it is an effort to help families affected by the storm who lack adequate housing insurance or who have been overlooked by FEMA efforts. The Albany Area Fuller Center is a primary partner in the effort.

“This is amazing,” Miguel told the Albany Herald newspaper. “It is amazing to know that there are people in your community willing to help out when things are bad. I am overwhelmed.”

Speaking to WFXL-TV, Metta Devine-Quin said, “It’s a lot of damage. I have seen it before, and I sympathize with all of the people down here. Anything that we can do to help them, I just want to be able to do anything I can.”

See the complete story in the Albany Herald newspaper.

View the WFXL=TV report.

Facebook photo gallery with more than 180 pictures.


 

TALLAHASSEE FULLER CENTER FOR HOUSING

tallahassee-group-1In Tallahassee, Florida, students worked on five homes in a low-income community. Though most had little to no construction experience, they learned that it’s the passion for helping others that makes a difference.

“What I learned was that regardless of your previous skills, anyone can contribute anything to any cause, so that was a really rewarding experience for me,” Alex Quillin said.

Their efforts not only improved homes in the area, but they provided inspiration and hope for the residents — including some of the youngest residents.

“I was not expecting it to be this amazing,” Lydia Newton said. “We met a little girl who was living in a trailer. She was helping me and she told me she wanted to be like me when she grew up. She wanted to wear the apron and the gloves and help out and make a difference. It was really amazing.”

View WCTV’s report on the students’ efforts.


 

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Americus project helps burglary victim have sense of security, added mobility

Americus project helps burglary victim have sense of security, added mobility

Emma Ruth Lewis of Americus has called the same house “home” for the last 30 years. However, the last three of those years have been less than perfect. Her home was burglarized, leaving her susceptible to future break-ins as the door would no longer shut properly. Since then, Emma has been afraid to be in the house alone. 

On top of that, as she aged her knees began deteriorating, leaving her nearly unable to climb the stairs into her home. 

Everything began to change for Emma when the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center became involved. With their help the home now has a ramp to ease her knee problems, new vinyl siding, a new water heater, and a secure door to deter future robberies. 

Her daughter, Renee Lewis, is moving out of the house this week. She is overjoyed knowing her mom will be safe without her there.

Local Fuller Center board member, Thad Harris — who also is a Fuller Center homeowner partner himself — says “By making the ramp, we’re making the house more accessible for her now.”

Showing the true compassion in the community, The Fuller Center wasn’t the only group involved with this home. As news spread of Emma Ruth’s situation, neighbors, community members, and the church congregation at Americus Holiness Deliverance Temple descended upon the home, helping in any way they were able.

When asked about why they felt drawn to this project, the team has reached a simple conclusion: Emma needed help, and they were able to provide that help. 

As for Emma, she rests easier knowing her home is now safe and accessible, and that the community is truly looking out for her.

To get a better look at the scene of the Lewis home, take a look at the video below! 

 

Demand transparency from nonprofits; GuideStar rates Fuller Center ‘platinum’ for transparency

Demand transparency from nonprofits; GuideStar rates Fuller Center ‘platinum’ for transparency

(This is part of a regular series of blog posts related to The Fuller Center’s #MoreSmilesFewerShacks 2016 year-end campaign.)

There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. This includes tiny charities in small towns and huge nonprofit organizations that reach across the nation and around the world. The majority of these nonprofits — big and small — provide valuable services to people in need. However, given the vast number of nonprofits in the U.S., it’s impossible to know whether each and every one is true to their cause without doing some research.

Unfortunately, every year we hear stories of so-called charities that do very little to benefit anyone outside their paid staff. A very few are downright scam artists, using names similar to quality nonprofits that help veterans, feed the hungry or house the needy to line their own pockets. There also are very well-known charities found to not have been fully transparent about where their money actually goes. Others use vague terms such as “families served” to measure their work. Does a “family served” equate to mouths fed, bodies clothed or families housed? Not always.

new charity rating logosThe Fuller Center for Housing is proud to be one of the small percentage of nonprofits to have been rated Platinum for transparency by GuideStar.

Quite frankly, this rating does not require a nonprofit to do anything extraordinary; it merely requires nonprofits to be 100 percent open and transparent about their work and clear about how donations and gifts are used. The Fuller Center also meets all 20 standards set forth by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

“When folks find out what we’re doing, they tend to like it.” — David Snell, Fuller Center President

The Fuller Center encourages every generous person to demand transparency from the charities they support — whether that charity involves helping people have decent places to live as we do or a completely different mission. Whatever the cause, you deserve to know that your gifts are being put to proper use and not to build ornate headquarters buildings or to fund unnecessary overhead and high salaries.

The latest independent audit of The Fuller Center for Housing shows that 86 percent of revenue went directly to fund programs in the field over the past fiscal year — far above the nonprofit industry average. Because The Fuller Center remains committed to minimal overhead, an increase in donations this fiscal year means that excellent 86 percent figure would only improve.

Please get to know the nonprofits you support. If it’s in your backyard, pay them a visit or, better yet, spend a day volunteering with them to get a real feel for their work. Check their websites for their IRS 990 filings, audits and other reports. Visit their headquarters and see if it is simple or if a great deal of money was spent on unnecessary things. We’d love to have you come visit our international headquarters. The building — a former Chinese restaurant that was donated to our ministry — may not be striking, but seeing how efficient a small staff can be at running an international nonprofit spanning more than 70 U.S. communities and 20 countries surely will impress you.

So, get to know us at The Fuller Center a little better. We’d be happy to answer any questions you might have and would be happy to have you visit our cozy headquarters in Americus, Ga. Browse our website and learn about our history and principles. If you would like to see most of the pertinent information about our ministry in one document, please click here to download our simple, 8-page case statement.

As our president, David Snell, has often said, “When folks find out what we’re doing, they tend to like it.” Indeed. Find out what we’re up to. I think you’ll like it, too.

click here to support
our year-end campaign

 

Americus woman transforms home into shelter for homeless veterans

Americus woman transforms home into shelter for homeless veterans

Annie Bell White-Moss is an Americus-grown woman. She grew up in town, went to the local high school, and ran her own business in town. Now, she has turned an old property of hers into something to give back to the community she loves so dearly: a shelter for homeless veterans. 

After finishing cosmetology school, Annie Bell noticed that the home two doors down from her was for sale. After purchasing the home, Annie Bell paid $50 a month to Mr. Clover, the previous homeowner. Annie Bell finished payments on the house after ten years and ran a beauty shop out of it for thirteen years. 

Eventually, Annie Bell’s beauty shop outgrew the house on Hampton, and relocated to a bigger property. The home sat empty for years, and eventually, the city moved to condemn it. That was when the house came back into Annie Bell’s life. 

Annie Bell’s husband, Charles Moss, passed away in November of 2015. “I decided to try to make it a veteran’s shelter in memory of him, because he was a navy veteran.”  After four months of work on the home including a new roof, new wiring, and new plumbing, the home is nearly ready for business. Annie Bell dedicated today as a visitation and dedication of the home, letting anyone who may need its resources know that it is available. 

Annie Bell is working with the town of Dublin, GA, to let the town’s homeless veterans know that resources are available for them in Americus. The local shelter in Americus is also sending overflow to Annie Bell.