Helping people become owners of simple, decent homes is the main thrust of The Fuller Center’s mission. But Fuller Center covenant partners also strive to help families prepare to be long-term, successful homeowners.
Helping the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing fulfill that part of the equation for some homeowner families this year was Mitzi Parker. Parker is the Sumter County Extension agent/Family and Consumer Sciences with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Not only has the Extension Service shared homeowner preparedness training materials with The Fuller Center that will be available for all covenant partners, but also Parker led a recent six-class program for soon-to-be homeowner in Americus.
Penny Wade, Family Support Chair for the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center, said Parker’s help was crucial.
“It’s a very basic, simplistic, educational program where it starts you off with the basic skills you’ve got to have to become a homeowner — from credit reports to employment history, family size, what your needs and wants are, what can you afford, saving for emergencies,” she said. “It’s something that can give them some confidence to be a responsible homeowner.”
“Mitzi was very nice and is a very good teacher,” said Cassie Battle, who went through the training with her husband, Damien, and three children, who will own the home being constructed during Toolie’s Birthday Blitz in June in Americus. “The classes were wonderful. I learned a lot. I learned how to save money. I really didn’t know too much about savings accounts, CDs and things like that. It was very helpful, and when I get ready to move in, I’ll be ready.”
While some people who have grown up in stable homes with financially savvy parents who have owned their houses, not everyone has had the luxury of learning basic financial skills through osmosis.
“A lot of people take that for granted,” Parker said. “If your parents never taught you about basic money skills, it’s sink or swim, and that’s no fun.”
“The support really makes a difference between people who can keep their house and people who lose it through foreclosure,” Fuller Center Director of U.S. Field Operations Kirk Lyman-Barner said. “We’ll have a better success rate because of these classes. The University of Georgia has provided so many materials, and we expect them to add to it. It’s a living, growing resource for our groups.”
It wasn’t just future homeowners in the class. Thad Harris — an enthusiastic volunteer who became owner of a wheelchair friendly home in 2010 — attended the classes just to pick up a few money management tips and advice in such areas as green cleaning. It made perfect sense to Parker.
“No matter how well-educated you are or not, sometimes everybody just needs to learn the basics again,” she said. “Maybe you’ll pick up something along the way that you haven’t heard before, a new technique or a new way of looking at things. But my goal is for them to find something that will really work and put it into practice.”
The classes were mandatory for the future homeowners, but the fact that Parker made the classes fun turned it from an obligation to an enjoyable weekly outing.
“They enjoyed it so much that they couldn’t wait to come back to the next class, and that was a pleasant surprise,” Lyman-Barner said. “They learned what’s really important. They learned to communicate and identify priorities.”
“That’s awesome that people wanted to come,” Parker responded. “It needs to be fun. Nobody wants to go to a boring class! I hope it’s going to make them a more well-rounded homeowner. That’s the ultimate goal for everybody, isn’t it?”
If you would like to learn more about the program and how your covenant partner could benefit, contact Kirk Lyman-Barner at email@example.com.