(Photo: Glenda Cole sits on the front porch of her home in Greenwood, Miss., with her son, Phil. Cole recently paid off the mortgage on the home she partnered to build in 1999. Photo courtesy of the Greenwood Commonwealth.)
Army veteran in Greenwood, Mississippi, celebrates paying off home mortgage
There are many steps in the process of being a Fuller Center for Housing homeowner partner, but one of the most important steps is the final one — paying off the mortgage and owning the home outright.
Glenda Cole recently experienced that joy in Greenwood, Miss., where she made her final payment to the Greenwood-Leflore Fuller Center for Housing.
“I thank God for it,” said Cole, an Army veteran who is now retired after working for 25 years as a security guard at Amanda Elzy High School. “It’s just such a huge blessing to me.”
It was a journey of more than 20 years for Cole and helped the local Fuller Center covenant partner tie their present to their past. The local group began as a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in 1985 and partnered with Cole in 1999. They switched their affiliation to The Fuller Center in 2008. Among the many projects the group has undertaken since the transition was turning 26 unused Katrina cottages donated by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency into beautiful, quaint homes in the historic Baptist Town neighborhood of Greenwood — the same neighborhood that provided the setting for the acclaimed film “The Help” and where blues legend Robert Johnson died in 1938 at the age of 27.
Today, the Greenwood-Leflore Fuller Center has many new faces on its board and a new focus as it is using donations by supporters and repayments by its homeowners to concentrate on rehabbing dilapidated properties to sell as like-new homes and helping existing homeowners make needed repairs.
“The Fuller Center has made a huge difference around town,” Cole said.
Sarah Herrera of the Greenwood-Leflore Fuller Center said that celebrating Cole’s mortgage payoff is a reminder of the group’s many years of accomplishments and provides renewed incentive to push forward with new projects.
“It was really encouraging to me to see some of the results of our efforts,” Herrera said. “There’s been a lot of positive developments in the past few months that have been quite a while in the making, so we’re feeling very optimistic about the future of The Fuller Center right now.”
Fuller Center homeowners repay the costs of their home builds over time, on terms they can afford, through zero-percent-interest, no-profit-made mortgage payments. Those payments go into a local Fund for Humanity to help others in their community get the same hand-up into simple, decent housing. In making the repayments this way, the homeowners not only are not charity cases but are givers themselves by paying it forward.
It is a foundational principle of The Fuller Center for Housing, one based on the teaching of Millard Fuller’s spiritual mentor Clarence Jordan at Koinonia Farm in the 1960s that: “What the poor need is not charity but capital, not caseworkers but co-workers.”
Paying it forward is particularly important to many veterans like Cole who have a strong sense of pride and are often reluctant to accept handouts.
“I definitely prefer to pay for it myself,” Cole said.
She also worked for the opportunity. In addition to making repayments, Fuller Center homeowners also contribute sweat equity in the building or repairs of their homes. This further enhances homeowner partners’ sense of investment and pride in their homes.
“There were a lot of hard, sweaty hours, but I was so excited. Coming from the projects into a home that was going to be mine someday was just a joy. It provided my children with stability and a decent upbringing. I’m just very grateful, and it feels good that I’ll never have to go out and look for a place to live.”