Georgia Bailey has spent nearly her entire adult life caring for others including the sick, the elderly, friends, family and neighbors. Of course, now at 87, Bailey can sit back, relax and …
Oh, never mind. She is still caring for others. In fact, she just pulled a 12-hour shift — 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. — on Thursday caring for a patient with a chronic illness. She landed the opportunity through a private employer because the agency with which she had been working could not find her enough work to keep her satisfied.
Bailey may not quite as quickly as she once did, but she is always available to help those in need. Unfortunately, she has not been able to care for her east Macon, Georgia, home quite as well as she would like. That’s where The Fuller Center for Housing of Macon stepped in this month — making minor repairs through a Greater Blessing project adopted by Macon-area BB&T offices and their employees, part of the annual Lighthouse Project in which BB&T offices select a local nonprofit with which to serve. The Project started a decade ago and has since helped more than 15 million people throughout the banking company’s footprint, according to Scott Siegel, Market President for BB&T.
“At BB&T, part of our mission is to make the communities where we live better places to be, and this is one way that we do this,” Siegel said, adding that it was especially nice to be able to help someone who has helped so many herself. “I think it’s fantastic. She’s a pillar of the community, and we’ve got the opportunity to help her out, and we’re just excited to be here to do that today.”
Bailey and her husband, who passed away in 1985, purchased this home in east Macon in 1974. The east Macon neighborhood is a quiet one with well-kept yards and houses and friends who look out for each other. Bailey’s next-door-neighbor cuts her grass and takes her trash to the curb. Bailey’s home itself was hardly dilapidated. But her inability to climb ladders led to some damage around her roof and gutters — damage that if left unrepaired could have led to much bigger and more expensive problems.
“She has maintained it as best she can,” said Lynda Brown, Executive Director of The Fuller Center for Housing of Macon. “It is still in really great condition, but there were a few problems that we were able to help her with.”
The Fuller Center’s Greater Blessing repair problem is a popular way for covenant partners across the United States to help people stay in the homes they love — often partnering with the disabled, veterans and senior citizens. Unlike those who partner with The Fuller Center to build new homes, Greater Blessing homeowner partners are not legally bound to repay the costs of repairs by a mortgage. They are simply asked to repay when and as they are able.
New Fuller Center homeowner partners repay the costs of materials through zero-percent-interest, zero-profit-made mortgages with their payments going into a local Fund for Humanity to help others in their community get the same hand-up into simple, decent, affordable housing.
One of those soon-to-be new homeowner partners was on the site helping Bailey on Tuesday. Emily Knight will be moving into a Fuller Center home with her three children in a couple of months. Actually, her “new” Fuller Center home is the result of a massive renovation of a donated property that had sat vacant on the other side of Macon in an area called Napier Heights where The Fuller Center of Macon has multiple projects that are erasing blight and filling once-forgotten streets with hope and life.
“It’s great for me and my children,” Knight said of the home she hopes to move into in August. “My children love being outside, so that’s a plus. I grew up in a home, and I want them to grow up in a home. I’m glad that I found out about the program through a mutual friend who’s in the program. I’m excited.”
Knight was there to fulfill another requirement of Fuller Center homeowners — sweat equity. Homeowners are expected to work alongside volunteers on the building of their homes or other Fuller Center projects. Performing sweat equity gives homeowners an extra level of investment in their houses and also helps them retain their dignity as they are co-workers, not charity cases, in the building process.
Knight and Brown both agreed that sweat equity offers another opportunity — to learn basic skills that can help maintain homes and prevent small issues from becoming expensive major problems.
“Sweat equity gives a new homeowner the opportunity to learn firsthand how to take care of the home that they’re about to purchase and how to maintain it so that it stays in the kind of condition that they can be proud of and that makes a good home for her children,” Brown said. “It’s such a very practical way of helping new homeowners learn about taking care of their home. Also, I think it helps them learn about preventative care.”
That is just one of the Fuller Center concepts that Julie Wheeler has learned about this month. Wheeler’s mother died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease about a decade ago. Bailey was her caregiver.
“She became a part of my family through that whole process of taking care of my mom,” Wheeler said. “Georgia took such great care of her while she was here.”
Wheeler has done her part to look out for Bailey ever since. When she learned that a nonprofit was stepping forward to help Bailey do some home repairs, she researched The Fuller Center to find out what it was all about. Worried that someone could take advantage of her friend, Wheeler is now excited about the housing ministry and its uplifting, Christian principles that she has been able to witness up close.
“I didn’t really know anything about Fuller until Georgia told me about it, so I’m learning from her,” Wheeler said Tuesday. “I’m very impressed, and it’s so nice to meet everybody today, meet Lynda and get to see it in action.”
Photo gallery from Tuesday’s project: