Big Event house “a dream come true” for Robinson family in Americus

Big Event home “a dream come true” for the Robinson family

AMERICUS, Georgia — There are two men who feature most prominently in Emmanuel Robinson’s life.

One is his father, the Rev. Al Robinson, pastor of Reach Out and Touch Ministries. The pastor was strict with young Emmanuel and had high standards for his son as he was growing up in rural Leslie, Georgia, about a dozen miles southeast of Americus, birthplace of the world’s affordable housing movement.

Another is Millard Fuller, the man who launched that movement in 1976 as he founded Habitat for Humanity with wife Linda. The Fullers followed that in 2005 with the founding of The Fuller Center for Housing, which they saw as a return to the grass roots of the movement.

The two men had much in common, according to Emmanuel Robinson. Specifically, they were men of deep faith who refused to give up hope. And their efforts to build hope literally crossed paths in the 1990s when the Robinson family partnered to build their Habitat home in Leslie, a home in which Emmanuel spent his teenage years.

Like most teenagers, he had his moments of driving his parents crazy, but he can only imagine how life might have been had they never acquired that simple, decent place to live.

“It changed our lives drastically,” he recalls. “The house that we were living in before, the electricity was bad. The lights would blink and go on and off. The floors were bad. It was just a very bad predicament. When we got that new house, though, life changed.”

Today, Robinson is a single father of three — 11-year-old Bentley and 3-year-old twins Asher and Auri — who works for the city of Americus and is studying online to get a degree in Business Administration.

He also is the homeowner partner for The Big Event, an April 2024 blitz build uniting the forces of The Fuller Center for Housing and Georgia Southwestern State University that will honor Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, two of GSW’s most famous alumni. The build will involve more than 400 GSW students working in four-hour shifts from April 1 to April 19. The third and final week will also include Fuller Center volunteers from across the country.

Emmanuel Robinson with 11-year-old daughter Bentley and 3-year-old twins Asher and Auri at the February 29, 2024 groundbreaking for The Big Event build in Americus, Georgia.
Emmanuel Robinson with 11-year-old daughter Bentley and 3-year-old twins Asher and Auri at the February 29, 2024 groundbreaking for The Big Event build in Americus, Georgia.

Providentially, the home is being constructed just a couple of blocks up Hampton Street from the church pastored by his father, who is glad to see his son get the same kind of hand-up into a simple, decent and affordable home that he and his wife once had in Leslie. And he is extremely proud that his once-hardheaded teenage son grew into the kind of hard-working, grateful adult with whom The Fuller Center loves to partner.

Like all Fuller Center homeowners, Robinson will repay the costs of construction on affordable terms, over time, through a zero-percent interest mortgage. Those repayments will go into a local fund to help others get the same kind of hand-up. He welcomes that opportunity to pay it forward, just as he has embraced contributing “sweat equity” working alongside volunteers in the construction.

“I’m so grateful,” he said. ““It’s unreal, very unreal. It’s a dream come true.”

Unfortunately, he cannot personally thank the man who inspired the movement that is currently uplifting and empowering his family as Millard Fuller passed away in 2009. However, after the official February 29 groundbreaking for The Big Event, Robinson dropped by Fuller Center headquarters with a simple request:

He wanted to learn everything he could about Fuller’s life and legacy of service.

“Oh man, if I could meet him now, I would just hug him and just thank him over and over,” Robinson said. “Without Millard Fuller, I don’t know where we’d be. He’s helped a lot of people in poverty to own their own home when the thought of it seemed impossible.

“I think Millard Fuller was one of the greatest men to ever walk this planet.”

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