2017 Legacy Build Day 5: Heavy rain cuts final day short, but so much accomplished

2017 Legacy Build Day 5: Heavy rain cuts final day short, but so much accomplished

While heavy rains may have called an abrupt, muddy halt to Friday’s final day of work at the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in the Tuxedo Park area of east Indianapolis, volunteers already had made great progress not just in building five new houses but also in lifting the spirits of an entire neighborhood that had felt its best days were behind it and its worst days were at hand.

No more. Tuxedo Park is on its way back up, and the volunteers and supporters of The Fuller Center for Housing and The Fuller Center for Housing of Central Indiana are to thank.

Click here to download high-resolution photos from the 2017 Legacy Build.

View WTHR-TV’s report from the final day of the build.

President David Snell talks about the success of the 2017 Legacy Build:

 

Legacy Build Day 4: For Doug Miller this week is all about one day — Dedication Day

Legacy Build Day 4: For Doug Miller this week is all about one day — Dedication Day

(Photo: Doug Miller is serving as a block captain at this year’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis. He has been to numerous builds in the U.S. and internationally and is a generous financial supporter of The Fuller Center for Housing’s work.)

The Millard Fuller Legacy Build is a weeklong project, but for longtime Fuller volunteer and supporter Doug Miller, it all builds up to a single day … actually, a single moment.

“I love the dedication,” he said Thursday where volunteers scrambled to get exteriors done before rain moved in with a near 100 percent chance of precipitation for Friday’s Dedication Day. “When it’s done, you feel like a million bucks and it’s a little bit of payback.”

Miller first got involved with Millard Fuller’s affordable housing ministry in 1999, when he participated in the Jimmy Carter Work Project in The Philippines. It was there that he got to know Fuller and meet President Carter, who years later would welcome Doug and wife Jill to their home in Plains to thank them personally for their financial support of The Fuller Center for Housing. According to Miller, he almost had no choice but to become a mainstay of the ministry.

“If I didn’t show up for a build,” he’d call, Miller said with a chuckle as he recalled his relationship with Fuller. “Naturally, I had to go. He was very persuasive. From that day in Manila on, I’ve been behind Millard and Linda and David Snell.”

As a block captain, Miller is keeping his eye on multiple work sites at this year’s build rather than swinging his hammer at a single house. But whatever role he can perform with The Fuller Center, he’s happy to do so — whether it’s shoveling mortar in Nicaragua or helping solve the urgent issues that constantly pop up during a blitz build like this one.

“Usually the chaos is the first four or five hours,” he said of blitz days. “You’ve got hundreds of people coming together with different personalities, different egos — all with a big heart and wanting to do the right thing. By five or six o’clock, we’re all going to eat and everybody is now on a team. And it works. … All in all, I don’t think anybody has a complaint at the end of the week.”

Brothers Ray and Eldon Graber outside the house where two other brothers, Merle and Steve Graber also are working.

ELDON GRABER, Phoenix, Arizona

Another fixture on these builds is Mr. Graber. Of course, when you say “Mr. Graber” on a Fuller Center Legacy Build site, you have to be a lot more specific as that could mean any of the Graber brothers — Merle, Ray, Steve or Eldon.

“It’s a family thing,” Eldon said of the brothers getting together on blitz builds, adding that he has been on about a dozen between The Fuller Center and Habitat for Humanity. “We like to go together and talk some of our friends into going along.”

Of course, having a few Graber boys on the site is not just about a family reunion. They are all expert builders, and that makes for a smooth build, especially when they do succeed in talking friends into going along.

“We know we’ve got experienced help to spread out with the younger kids and whoever to just make the project go easier,” Eldon said.

Longtime Tuxedo Park resident Brenda Dennis chats with volunteers at a home site on North Bradley Avenue.

BRENDA DENNIS, Tuxedo Park resident

Brenda Dennis has lived on the corner of New York Street and North Bradley Avenue for three decades — during which time there have been no home building permits issued in her zip code  … until now. And she welcomes the construction noise as she walks the street visiting with the volunteers who are making this possible and thanking them for their service.

“Haven’t seen any new ones at all,” she said of homes in the area. “I’ve seen a lot of them go down. I love to see this rebuilding, bringing back our neighborhood — taking it back for the right people.”

The “right people” include families like J.R. and Tia Morris and their four children, who will be moving into the Fuller Center home being built closest to her house on North Bradley. Dennis has checked in daily on the progress and visited with the family.

“Bringing back the neighborhood benefits all of us — especially the kids, our next generation,” she said, adding that she would be willing to put up with the noise all summer long if she had to. “I really appreciate it. It even makes other neighborhoods aware that they can come back, too. The ones who don’t want to do the right thing, we can get them away from our neighborhoods and take them back and build our city back.”

 

 

Legacy Build Day 2: “So grateful to be a part of Millard’s legacy”

Legacy Build Day 2: “So grateful to be a part of Millard’s legacy”

Mark Bippes of Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, has long been a grateful man. But since battling cancer, gratitude permeates his life in everything that he does.

One thing Bippes has done for many years is help people have simple, decent places to live. It is an issue he became passionate about through his friendship with Millard Fuller — a friendship that dates back even before the Fullers launched Habitat for Humanity in 1976 and long before they founded The Fuller Center for Housing.

Bippes is especially grateful for the responsibility to serve as a house co-captain at this year’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis, where he is leading a build on Denney Street with a couple dozen volunteers, including a few regulars from his Morris Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

“Being here this week is extremely significant for me,” an emotional Bippes said Tuesday on the second day of the Legacy Build. “I was here seven years ago for the 2010 Legacy Build, and it was five and a half years ago that I came down with cancer and wasn’t able to do much of anything. I’ve been through an incredible amount. Just in the last year I’ve been able to get back out volunteering on site. This year I’m finally doing well enough that I decided to try something like this.”

Leading a house build — particularly during a one-week blitz — is an enormously stressful job but one that he relishes.

“I’m just trying to put my faith in Jesus into action,” he said. “I’ve been involved with Habitat since before the beginning, and my relationship with Millard Fuller is something that’s been extremely significant in my life. Having a Legacy Build is something that I am so grateful to be a part of. … The way Millard put faith into action, he was just so deeply committed.

“The bottom line is that we’re making a difference in the lives of the people who are going to be our homeowners,” added Bippes, whose homeowner partner is Paula White, a widow who will be living with her grandson. “I think that’s what really gives me the greatest amount of satisfaction and working along with the volunteers who are giving of their time and their resources and skills. Just being part of a team is so important.”

William and Margaret McKeller were married on May 27 of this year.

NEWLYWEDS “CAN’T GET A BETTER BLESSING”

A couple hundred yards away on North Bradley Avenue, Margaret and William McKeller are feeling doubly blessed. They were just married on May 27, and soon they will have a decent place to live. They look at the rapid progress on their new home with a mix of gratitude and disbelief.

“It’s a blessing to see all these people volunteering, coming from all over the country,” William said. “And they’re not getting paid to do it. You can’t get a better blessing than that. It’s amazing.”

Both Margaret and William were born and raised and have lived their entire lives in Indianapolis. They currently live in apartment about two miles from the Legacy Build site. Their adult children worry about their ability to safely get in and out of the apartment due to the knee problems each suffers.

“We got married and now we’re going to own our own home,” Margaret said. “It’s such a blessing.”

Of course, they know a little about blessing others. Margaret works for Dove Recovery House, a women’s shelter that works helps women with dependency problems get clean and back as productive members of society, while William works at a food pantry and does prison ministry work with his pastor.

Al Harano is working on his first Fuller Center project.

VOLUNTEER HAPPY TO “GO WITH THE FLOW”

One of those volunteers who has given time and resources to help the McKellers have a good home is Al Harano of San Jose, California. Amid all the chaos and fervor surrounding him during a blitz week, he has maintained an almost constant smile and ease on the house co-captained by husband-and-wife team Mary Lou Bowman and Russ Cubbin.

Harano began volunteering on Habitat projects after Hurricane Katrina, but this is his first Fuller Center build. His friend Steve Lumpp (a house co-captain across the street) encouraged him to register for this week’s Legacy Build.

“Since I’ve been around to a lot of different affiliates across the country, I’ve learned everybody’s got their own way of doing things so you just kinda go with the flow,” he said with almost stereotypical West Coast cool. “But all of the workers we have are all pretty good. And Mary Lou and Russ have been great.”

He also has been impressed with the youthful contingent of volunteers associated with Nazarene churches in town for a conference.

“The young church people here are really good and really enthusiastic,” he said. “They get stuff done, and you don’t have to keep watching them. So, it’s been a really good build.”

 

 

Boy’s Christmas wish for mother to have a decent home now taking shape

Boy’s Christmas wish for mother to have a decent home now taking shape

When Christmas approached, it was time yet again for K’Hairi to climb upon Santa Claus’ lap and ask for the same thing as the year before. The 7-year-old did not ask for toys or video games. He did not even ask for the jolly old elf to end his struggles with sickle-cell anemia.

Instead, he asked for Santa to help his mother, U.S. Army veteran Carla Ross, have a nice house.

Well, he did ask for a couple of other things — a fan and a heater to fight the heat and cold that penetrate the old mill-era shack in which they currently live and where Carla pays about $350 a month in power bills.

On Monday, June 12, K’Hairi’s wish began to take shape on Frank Hall Jr. Street in West Point, Georgia, as volunteers and community leaders worked under a blazing sun and smothering humidity to raise walls on the first day of a two-week blitz by the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project.

Not only will they be able celebrate this Christmas in a new, safe, comfortable home, but K’Hairi also will be able to celebrate his eighth birthday there at the end of July. And for a family dealing with the constant struggle of trying to pay the bills while fighting a disease like sickle-cell, an affordable, energy-efficient home is a dream come true. In fact, it was a dream she had given up on before Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts convinced her that this opportunity was within her reach.

“Ms. Kim had to hunt me down because I was thinking that because I’ve got bad credit it’s going to be too hard to do this,” said Ross, who was active duty in the U.S. Army from 1994-98 before serving in the Army Reserve and being deployed to Uzbekistan after 9/11. “I thought there was no need in trying because I don’t like disappointment. She finally called and said, ‘I’m not taking “no” for an answer.

“It is a blessing,” she added. “I didn’t think it could ever happen for me, and I’d sorta given up trying because every time I took a step forward a storm would hit me and set me back a couple of steps. It’s a wonderful feeling that it’s really going to happen.”

 

STRONG COMMUNITY SUPPORT

It is the fifth year that the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project has teamed up with Home Depot to help a veteran have a decent place to live, with Home Depot providing a $25,000 grant for the Ross build and Charter Bank contributing another $10,000. But the community support does not end there.

City officials — including Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Tramell and Fire Chief Milton Smith — were sweating it out Monday alongside other volunteers, including a team from New Birth Ministries, a yearlong addiction recovery program, and a crew from Perry’s Construction Company that included the boss, Michael Perry. The walls they are raising were provided by CrossRoads Missions and assembled by teams of students from Point University. Ten churches and businesses are providing meals for the workers, and the local Coca-Cola bottler is bringing water, sodas and ice. Meanwhile, a couple of Minnesotans — frequent Fuller Center volunteers Tim DuBois and Charlie Thell — are braving the Georgia heat to serve as house leaders for the build.

“It’s just been a whole flock of people from the community that have been involved,” Tramell said. “This is the group that will see the most dramatic change. This lets the community know that things are changing.”

West Point Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Tramell takes a look down Frank Hall Jr. Street on Monday with K’Hairi.

It is hardly the first time that Tramell has worked with The Fuller Center as he has helped on projects in West Point and in adjacent Lanett, Alabama, where the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project’s success is most visible and where Fuller Center founder Millard Fuller was born and raised. While this is the 37th home for Chattahoochee, it is the first new home build in West Point since Roberts joined the ministry eight years ago.

“It was huge that the citizens wanted The Fuller Center to start back building in West Point again,” said Roberts, adding that a group of local citizens responded to an effort by Tramell to pool money to purchase the lot on which Ross’ home and another will sit. “It’s exciting to have the mayor support you and have the town support you.”

For Tramell, drawing The Fuller Center back into West Point just makes good sense for the city.

“We had a great need in this area of town to do some redevelopment, and this is a new start for Frank Hall Jr. Street,” he said while wiping sweat from his forehead. “This is going to be the kickoff for hopefully a lot more things to come to beautify this street and this whole area. It’s something that’s been a long time coming, and we really needed it. This is a great start. We’ll just keep going right down the street.”

‘I LOVE THIS WORK’

However, even if this build were happening in Lanett or nearby Valley, Alabama, Tramell probably would still be there working alongside volunteers. The build makes sense for revitalization in West Point, but his belief in the hand-up extended to families through this ministry is his main reason for serving on the build.

“K’Hairi is just as sweet as he can be, and Carla is just as deserving as she can be,” Tramell said. “It’s going to be a great thing to be able to get them out of the situation they are in and into something new and clean and safe and just wonderful.

“I love this work,” he added. “I wouldn’t miss it. I really enjoy being out here helping, and it’s a blessing to be able to help. One of these days, I’ll be too old to do this.”

West Point Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Tramell with Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts.

Roberts gets emotional — not that that’s unusual for the woman who hears joyous shouts of “Ms. Kim! Ms. Kim!” from Fuller Center homeowner partners’ children almost every day — simply knowing that another family will have a decent place to live and that a little boy battling illness will have a healthy place to grow up.

“When you can take people out of those situations and put them into something that they can afford and is decent, you’ve changed their life,” Roberts said. “And K’Hairi is just precious. And he’s sick, but he doesn’t show it. He’s always got a smile on his face.”

That smile was even bigger than usual on Monday.

He’s already picked out where he wants to be,” said Ross, who noted that K’Hairi had been ill since Memorial Day weekend, improving enough only this past Saturday to be on the job site. “He said, ‘That’s my room!’ It feels wonderful. This is amazing with all of these people coming out to help. It’s just awesome!”

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Indianapolis’ Fountain Square thriving seven years after 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build

Indianapolis’ Fountain Square thriving seven years after 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build

(Photo: Fuller Center of Central Indiana board member Ron Fisher holds a tuckered-out Kamar’e during a September 2011 build in Fountain Square. Kamar’e lives in one of the homes built during the 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build. The 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build returns to Indianapolis June 18-23.)

When The Fuller Center for Housing of Central Indiana agreed to host the 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis, the new covenant partner had been around for just one year and built just one home. Hosting hundreds of volunteers to build seven new homes in a one-week blitz meant that the new covenant partner would gain instant visibility.

As Fuller Center of Central Indiana President Chuck Vogt recalled, there was just one problem with hosting such a major build: They could not find a place to put the homes.

“We needed some property,” he said. “We’d just about exhausted everything we could find looking for property in one neighborhood when all of the sudden we got a phone call from somebody who said there’s a street called St. Paul Street and it sits between Churchman Avenue and St. Peter. We figured that was a God sign.”

While the local group may have seen that as a God sign, many other people saw the area in the neighborhood known as Fountain Square as nothing less than godforsaken.

“City officials told us that St. Paul Street was the armpit of the city and that it had a bunch of boarded-up and dilapidated houses with drugs and prostitution and rodents,” Vogt said.

Chuck Vogt and then-Mayor Greg Ballard in Fountain Square, a year after the 2010 Legacy Build.

Vogt visited the site, along with Fuller Center for Housing President David Snell, and they found that everything the city told them was true — and then some.

“When I first saw St. Paul Street, it was a panorama of urban decay with derelict and vacant houses and weed-covered empty lots — a perfect place for The Fuller Center to get to work!” said Snell, who recognized opportunity where others saw hopelessness, just as founder and friend Millard Fuller had done in countless similar places across the United States and around the world.

“And get to work, we did!” Snell continued, noting that The Fuller Center also rehabbed 15 homes in the neighborhood that week. “The street was transformed. The first rehab we dedicated had been a crack house, but the new and restored homes drove out the bad element.”

“When I first saw St. Paul Street, it was a panorama of urban decay with derelict and vacant houses and weed-covered empty lots — a perfect place for The Fuller Center to get to work!” — Fuller Center President David Snell

During the week of June 18-23, The Fuller Center of Central Indiana will host the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build, looking to resurrect yet another Indianapolis neighborhood with a five-home, weeklong blitz. Volunteers from across the nation will build four homes on North Bradley Avenue and another on nearby Denny Street. The build will kick off an extensive effort to revitalize the entire area just east of downtown and a couple of miles from Fountain Square.
(Click here to volunteer or to learn more.)

“It’s exactly the same kind of neighborhood as Fountain Square,” Vogt said, setting the stage for a similar neighborhood rebirth.

Fuller Center President David Snell talks with a reporter in Fountain Square one year after the 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.

FOUNTAIN SQUARE TODAY, SEVEN YEARS LATER

For too long, when residents stepped out of their Fountain Square homes, they heard the sounds of fighting and gunshots. Then came the sounds of hammers, saws and drills at the 2010 Legacy Build. Now, the neighborhood is filled with the sounds of laughter from children playing in front yards and along the sidewalks.

Tiffany Parker’s sons Kendrick and Kamar’e are among the children whose laughter has filled the neighborhood for the past seven years. Ages 12 and 10 respectively, they now have a 10-month-old brother, Tyrelle.

“The boys are doing great!” Parker said. “It’s pretty cool to have a house that you can call your own and can go back to. I’m the only one out of my five brothers and sisters to have a house.”

The homeowner partners from the 2010 Legacy Build and the 2011 Labor of Love Build are not just neighbors, Parker added.

The home dedication for Tiffany Parker and sons in 2010.

“We all look out for each other, and our kids play with each other,” she said. “We take turns cooking dinners for each other. We take family trips together and go places together.”

“Everything is great, and all these great kids are growing up,” said Manuel Martinez, whose son Manny was just 2 years old at the time of the 2010 build and is now in third grade. “The kids are always out playing games and playing tag. We are so thankful for all the volunteers who helped all of these families.”

For all that a decent home has done for Parker, Martinez and their sons, the more than two dozen homes built or repaired by The Fuller Center has done perhaps even more for the surrounding community.

“Since the build, I have seen a steady growth of renovation and new builds in the area,” said Jennie Gibson, whose husband Chip spends most of his time in a wheelchair. “It definitely seems like it kind of kick-started a renewal in the area. There are more people around, more kids in the neighborhood. It seems to be growing.”

Chip & Jennie Gibson

Though it has been seven years since the 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build, Gibson still gets choked up when she thinks about the volunteers who came to help build their St. Paul Street home.

“We’re just so thankful because we have been so blessed with the house,” she said. “When we built the house, my husband could still walk. Within months after we moved in, he started deteriorating and is not walking hardly at all anymore. The ramps on the house have been such a blessing. He’s been able to come and go in the wheelchair, and that’s been so helpful.”

Parker, who now works as a parent involvement educator at Charles W. Fairbanks Elementary School, also remains grateful.

“I still remember the house being built and when the walls went up — that was my favorite part as it began to look like a real house and I just remember crying,” she said. “I was just thinking about all those folks the other day because I have a collage of pictures of everybody who worked on our house.”

The Martinezes in 2010

Martinez is thrilled that more Indianapolis families and another neighborhood are about to get a hand-up through the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.

“We are so grateful, and I love The Fuller Center,” he said. “I’m always telling folks about it. I think it’s especially great that it provides an opportunity for people to volunteer to help each other. It’s a noble way to help, and it’s what America needs. I would encourage everyone to do it.”

 

Revisiting Fountain Square slideshow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Below: 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build announcement

Family Life Radio’s ‘Vantage Points’ program features Fuller Center’s work

Family Life Radio’s ‘Vantage Points’ program features Fuller Center’s work

Fuller Center for Housing Director of Communications Chris Johnson — pictured above with his friend Iris while working in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua — was interviewed on the Family Life Radio program “Vantage Points” for the May 20, 2017 episode. Below, you can hear the complete discussion with host Calvin Carter, accompanied by related photos of The Fuller Center’s work.

John J. Staton: Five decades of supporting Fuller ministry is all about hands-on faith

John J. Staton: Five decades of supporting Fuller ministry is all about hands-on faith

(Photo: Millard Fuller’s early work in Africa inspired the Rev. John J. Staton, who continues to support The Fuller Center for Housing’s work decades later.)

When Millard and Linda Fuller founded The Fuller Center for Housing in 2005, retired pastor John J. Staton was among the earliest supporters. Of course, when the Fullers went to Africa in the early 1970s to test the concept of partnership housing, he supported them then.

Today, at age 88, he continues to give every month. He is especially proud to support a ministry that gave Millard Fuller some of the happiest years of his life as The Fuller Center gave him an opportunity to return and recommit to the grass-roots, Christian principles that he and Linda began with decades ago.

“It’s incredible what The Fuller center has done and accomplished since 2005, and I’m glad I’ve been able to play a role” Staton says from his home in Carmel, Indiana. “I get a real sense of joy every time I write a check to The Fuller Center, and it will always be so. I’ll continue to give to The Fuller Center as long as I live.”

“What The Fuller Center is doing is based on faith. Millard built things squarely on the Gospel and on faith. It appealed to me as a hands-on example of following Jesus.” — John J. Staton

Staton, who grew up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, was Ivy League-educated at Dartmouth College, where he planned to become a doctor before going into ministry and attending Union Theological Seminary in New York City. It was that faith journey that would acquaint him with a young Millard Fuller, who also had experienced an abrupt change of direction in his life after giving up his millionaire lifestyle to serve others.

“He was deeply inspired by Clarence Jordan,” Staton says of Fuller’s relationship with mentor theologian Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm. “I used to correspond with him even though I’d never met him, and I gave him some money for the work in Africa. That was long before they’d started Habitat or anything else.”

After the Fullers returned to the United States in 1976 and founded Habitat for Humanity, Staton’s correspondence with Millard continued. Eventually, Staton would bring Millard to speak at churches in Central Indiana and hosted the Fullers at the home he shared with wife Shirley. (Shirley Staton passed away in 2001.) After retiring from the pulpit, the Statons even came to Americus, Georgia, to volunteer with Habitat — John in development and Shirley as a guide at the Global Village and Discovery Center.

“The more I got to know Millard and Linda during those three months with Habitat, the more I admired what they were doing,” Staton says. Though he was frustrated by the Fullers’ dismissal by Habitat, he was eager to support them in their return to grass-roots, Christian principles with The Fuller Center.

“A lot of my connections to The Fuller Center are built on top of a friendship with him,” Staton says. “I believed in his mission. What The Fuller Center is doing is based on faith. Millard built things squarely on the Gospel and on faith. It appealed to me as a hands-on example of following Jesus.”

While spreading the Gospel through Millard’s “Theology of the Hammer” and by putting faith into action are what most appeals to him in supporting The Fuller Center, he also knows the importance of growing up in a decent home. He grew up in a solid middle-class home during the Great Depression, a home his parents purchased with a $10,000 inheritance from his great-grandmother.

“That was the only home I knew until I was out of college,” Staton says. “It’s still in good condition, although that lawn seemed to be huge when I had to mow it as a child. Now it looks like a postage stamp.

“But I have nothing but happy memories of that home,” he adds. “I fell in love as a senior in high school with a girl who lived just six blocks from me. I got to know every pebble in the street riding my bike back and forth between our two houses. I married that girl (Shirley, to whom he was married for 50 years) after college. I had a very happy childhood living in that house.”

Become a monthly builder
like John staton

make a one-time gift

 

 

200th Fuller Center home in Haiti home exemplifies what makes this ministry work

200th Fuller Center home in Haiti home exemplifies what makes this ministry work

(Photo: A local laborer puts the finished touches on the 38th Fuller Center home in Pigñon, Haiti — the first paid for entirely with repayments by previous partner families in the community.)

If I had a nickel for every time I saw a comment like “I wish The Fuller Center would give me a house,” well, I’d have at least $1.85. Of course, I’ve only worked in this ministry for six years. Those who’ve been here longer likely would boast a lot more in their piggy banks.

My first reaction when I see a comment like that on a social media post about the dedication or completion of another Fuller Center for Housing home — here in the United States or abroad — is frustration. However, I have to remind myself that it’s a great opportunity to educate someone who is obviously unfamiliar with the grass-roots principles behind this ministry.

Of course, The Fuller Center does not give away houses. Families build in partnership with us. They commit sweat equity in the building of their homes (often alongside volunteers but also with local laborers) and pay back the building costs on terms they can afford, over time, with no interest charged and no profit made.

Here is the simple concept that truly makes this ministry succeed and grow in each location: Families truly pay it forward as their repayments go into a Fund for Humanity that stay in the community and help their neighbors in need get the very same kind of hand-up into better living conditions. The families, therefore, are not charity cases but are transformed into givers themselves. This empowers families in ways that handouts cannot.

Those who’ve been involved with this ministry are familiar with such pay-it-forward concepts our founder Millard Fuller developed based on partnership principles he learned from theologian Clarence Jordan at historic Koinonia Farm in the 1960s. To newcomers, however — such as those who stumble across a story about The Fuller Center and jump to the conclusion that we give away houses — this is new information.

“One of the blessings that the Fuller Center model offers the poor is the opportunity it gives for them to be more than just recipients of goodwill but donors, as well.” — Fuller Center President David Snell

And it’s a concept they like and embrace. For those who hate handouts, they like that this is a hand-up instead. For those who are unconditionally dedicated to helping the poor, they like that families are empowered to help themselves and break the generational cycle of poverty.

There’s a reason why The Fuller Center is supported by those on the far right, the extreme left and all points in between: Because no one is against helping people help themselves!

The Fund for Humanity concept means that the more Fuller Center homes a community builds, the more it can build. This means that our supporters’ contributions don’t go toward just one house but many. Gifts are recycled, and home-building becomes a rolling snowball, growing along the way.

“One of the blessings that the Fuller Center model offers the poor is the opportunity it gives for them to be more than just recipients of goodwill but donors, as well,” Fuller Center President David Snell says. “And one of the blessings our model gives the rich is that the money they give is multiplied so that they’re not just giving for a single house to be built but for many. This all happens through the Fund for Humanity.  Both the donor dollars and the homeowners mortgage payments go into this fund which is used to build more and more houses.”

More to this milestone in Haiti

The 200th Fuller Center home in Haiti — made possible by volunteers, local workers and supporters like you — is a milestone for that number alone. But there’s more to it. Our 200th Fuller Center home in the country is the 38th in the community of Pigñon, far away from the earthquake-damaged zone where we first began working in 2010.

This 38th home is entirely funded by repayments made by the partner families of the previous 37 homes in Pigñon. These repayments will fund more homes, and when these repayments are coupled with donations by people like you the success multiplies exponentially.

A few of the houses built in Pigñon this year.

As our Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola noted, there’s always more to every milestone number.

“With the large family sizes in Haiti, that’s over a thousand people spending every night in a dry, safe and permanent Fuller Center home,” he said. “After the earthquake struck, it was such a struggle even to build the first one. Now at 200, they seem to roll one after another, using volunteers and employing local Haitians.”

“But the best part, the very best part, is that we now have a program that others said couldn’t be done — where Haitians fund the homes of other Haitians,” he added of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, where decades of well-meaning handouts have exacerbated the country’s problems and helped foster a culture of dependency. “The Biblical model of a no-profit, no-interest loan is incredibly powerful and empowering, and we’re thrilled that Pigñon has embraced it. But this is no time to stop or slow down. Haiti badly needs homes and partners.”

There indeed is more work to be done in Haiti. And Nicaragua. And Nepal. And Lanett, Alabama. And Louisville, Kentucky. But in these places and dozens more across the United States and around the world, the grass-roots principles of partnership housing have taken root and allowing the pay-it-forward model to flourish.

We will never stray from those simple principles with which Millard was so inspired more than four decades ago. And we will stay true to those principles for the simplest reason:

Because they work!

 


 

Fuller Center President David Snell explains why The Fuller Center for Housing does not give houses away: