Photo: Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project project manager Matt Lawson-Boothy and Executive Director Kim Roberts in front of home No. 74 on North 12th Avenue in Lanett, Alabama, during this week’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build.
Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project thrives as Millard Fuller’s energy lives on in hometown
LANETT, Alabama — With the two homes coming together in rapid fashion during this week’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build, the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project will push its new home total to 75 — tops among Fuller Center covenant partners in the United States.
It seems fitting that this success would be marked and this milestone would be reached in the hometown of Millard Fuller — the Habitat for Humanity and then Fuller Center for Housing founder who revolutionized the concept of charitable work by preaching the Theology of the Hammer and practicing Enlightened Charity that provides a hand-up as it uplifts and empowers families.
“Having been born and raised in Lanett, Millard would be so proud of the work that is going on there,” Fuller Center for Housing President David Snell says. “It was one of the earliest covenant partners in the U.S., and it would mean so much to him to see how it is flourishing.”
Terrence Griffin will be the homeowner of milestone house No. 75. He also works with the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project, so he sees the ministry in action from both sides. He gushes with admiration when he talks about Millard Fuller.
“One of the reasons it works so well here is that there’s a lot of respect here for what he did for people,” Griffin says. “Becoming a millionaire and then giving it all away to help people inspires me. When I woke up one day and found my purpose, that was my purpose — helping people. He had a good heart, and that energy is still here.”
Griffin is so inspired by Millard’s story that he would like to follow in his footsteps.
“Knowing his dream and really what he wanted to do and following his story, I also want to build in the city of Lanett,” Griffin says. “He did it. Maybe I can continue his legacy. Maybe I can stay part of the team. Maybe I can keep going with this thing. Not only am I grateful for getting a house, but I actually get to be part of The Fuller Center.”
The name Millard Fuller alone, though, is not enough to sustain a covenant partner’s success. It takes support from the churches, businesses, leaders and individuals in the communities they serve — Lanett and Valley in Alabama and West Point in adjacent Georgia.
“I think it works here because of the support that we have here with the community,” says Robin Pierre, who also works with the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project, assisting Executive Director Kim Roberts. “The community wants to volunteer. It’s not like we have to go far to ask for volunteers. People come in and say, ‘What can I do to help?’ We don’t have to call and beg. They come to us and say, ‘What can I do?’ That just brings joy.”
Snell said there is no great secret to CFCP’s success.
“Their success is due to outstanding leadership and exceptional relationship building,” he says. “They are partners with churches, universities, businesses and local governments. If there’s the secret to their success, it’s this: They make friends! They invite people into the ministry and make them glad to be there.”
Those friends with products like OSB, insulation, water, heating-and-air systems, shingles and other crucial supplies are particularly helpful in getting homes built and keeping costs down.
“It just comes to us,” Pierre said, adding that they know that each gift is appreciated and never wasted. “They donate it to us, and they’re happy to do it. Kim makes a phone call, and it just happens. They see her number and say, ‘What do you need us to do?’ They know where their stuff is going and what their donations are doing.”
Roberts echoed the concept that community engagement is crucial, but there’s no secret to engaging people in their work.
“We give them that opportunity to be a part of something,” Roberts says. “I think a lot of people would get involved in many Fuller Center projects everywhere if they just knew, and you never know until you ask.”
Pierre adds that while anyone might be able to find success simply by asking the community to get involved, Roberts excels at encouraging people to come on board — especially those who can provide crucial materials.
“Kim makes a phone call, and it just happens,” Pierre says. “They see her number and say, ‘What do you need us to do?’ They know where their stuff is going and what their donations are doing.”
“It starts with Ms. Kim,” Griffin insists. “Ms. Kim has done a tremendous job. I don’t know how you can put into words all she has done for The Fuller Center.”
Matt Lawson-Boothy started in the construction business at the age of 14 as a roofer and spent 22 years in construction from laboring as an iron worker to becoming a manager and foreman. But that’s not what brought him to West Point. He came last year to pastor Refuge Point Church. This past spring, Valley Vision Center’s Dr. Connor Robbins encouraged to join the CFCP’s two-house senior homes project in Lanett because he knew that Lawson-Boothy had valuable experience.
“I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” he recalls. “I came out and met Kim, and she and I clicked very well. She saw the skills that the Lord has blessed me with after 22 years of experience.”
She also saw someone who could fill a need, and she was not shy to ask if he wanted to be more involved. She encouraged him to come on board as a project manager.
“I said, ‘Whatever you need me to do, I’m here to serve,’” he remembers. “Ultimately, that’s where my heart is — in serving. We’re all called to serve in whatever capacity, and that’s what I’m doing.”
As a pastor focused on putting faith into action and being the hands and feet of Christ in the community — much like Millard Fuller’s Theology of the Hammer — he can practice what he preaches through the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project.
“I’m able to come out here and be an example in the community, the best I can be,” he says. “Sometimes we think of the church as being a building, but The Church is a body of people that’s coming together to help a community in need. This is what a true body of Christ looks like. This is what The Church is.”
And he believes he knows the true secret of the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project’s success — putting faith into action and producing a track record of results in helping families have simple, decent places to live.
“I think it’s because people have seen the examples passed down through the years,” he says of the CFCP before looking around at this year’s crowd of busy Legacy Build volunteers and adding:
“This is what servant-hood looks like.
This is what Christianity looks like.
This is what the hands of God look like.”