From his earliest days growing up in Canada, Doug Miller cannot remember a time when he was not working.
Now 78, he reels off with pride the many childhood jobs he worked: At the age of 10, he delivered shoes on his bike for a shoe repairer, earning 2 cents a pair. The list goes on from there — 19 cents an hour in a dress factory, 35 cents an hour delivering groceries, 50 cents an hour at the A&P. By the time he was 18, he finally made it big — earning a whole dollar an hour working for a service station.
His parents instilled in young Doug the importance of hard work, and it paid off. After running his own service station for a few years, he left for the United States, becoming a citizen and embarking upon successful stints in other fields from farming to construction. The values he learned as a youth have led to a comfortable life for him and his wife, Jill.
Doug Miller’s parents also instilled in him another important life lesson — the responsibility to share his blessings. He and Jill have done that many times over as frequent volunteers and generous supporters of The Fuller Center for Housing, the affordable housing ministry founded by Millard Fuller.
And, now, they have shared their blessings with The Fuller Center in a way that will help many families be able to raise their children in simple, decent homes — with a $1 million cash donation. Miller said that such a sizable donation is not made without careful consideration. For a man whose blessings have come through hard work, he appreciates that The Fuller Center’s philosophy of “a hand-up, not a handout” is no mere cliché — it’s the principle of partnership upon which this housing ministry is built.
“When it comes to sharing, I look for ways for my gifts to build people up and be used wisely,” said Miller, of Henderson, Nevada. “The Fuller Center for Housing is just the kind of organization we want to share our blessings with. We’re confident that the money will be used wisely — The Fuller Center doesn’t support a fancy office or large organizational bureaucracy — and we know that the families who benefit from the gift will have more than just a decent place to call home; they’ll have the dignity of knowing that they worked for it.”
“A ministry like The Fuller Center depends on the kindness of others,” Fuller Center President David Snell said after a check presentation ceremony that included former President Jimmy Carter at the Carters’ home in Plains, Georgia, on Friday. “It is only because of our dedicated volunteers and donors that we are able to help families in need have a decent place to call home. We consider these good folks to be our partners, and we couldn’t hope for better partners than Doug and Jill Miller.
“Since their first involvement with Millard Fuller’s work in 1999, they have been on numerous builds and given thousands of dollars,” Snell added. “This most recent gift is a true blessing and will enable us to help many more families into simple, decent homes. They are true partners, and there aren’t enough words to thank them for their generosity.
Fire lit 15 years ago in The Philippines
“I admire and support The Fuller Center for Housing, which is doing good work around the world,” said President Carter, whom the Millers met briefly in 1999 in Manila, The Philippines, during a Jimmy Carter Work Project. “I was recently in Shreveport, where I got to see the work firsthand. I’m thankful to the Millers for this generous gift, which will be of benefit to many families.”
It was also during that project 15 years ago that Miller met Millard Fuller for the first time.
“It was only a two-minute thing,” Miller recalled. “We did 249 homes in various locations. Millard gave a talk, and Jimmy Carter came around and said hello and that kind of thing. There was no real discussion at that time. But that lit the fire to do some more. Then, every time I’d run into Millard or he would call saying they needed this or that, we kind of grew together. I really enjoyed Millard’s philosophy.”
He recalled being inspired by how Fuller, who died in 2009, refused to take no for an answer and how, as many others will attest, how he would step out on faith and charge into a project without having the resources that most would require to even consider planning a project — and that the resources would always come, just as Fuller predicted.
The philosophy of partnership and a hand-up is what has made Miller a supporter of Fuller’s work forever more. He especially appreciates a quote from Fuller’s spiritual mentor, Christian theologian Clarence Jordan — a quote he sees at the bottom of every email he receives from Snell: “What the poor need is not charity but capital, not caseworkers but co-workers.”
Because he and Jill have been co-workers as volunteers on many Fuller Center work sites, he has seen how families are truly empowered by having capital in the form of a simple, decent home they can afford to own. And he knows that the capital he is giving to The Fuller Center through this major gift can be recycled exponentially as homeowner partners repay the costs of homes and repairs into a Fund for Humanity to help others have simple, decent homes.
“It’s kind of like a permanent loan,” Miller said. “The Fuller Center will get that money back to be able to do more. I realize it’s not going to go around as fast as your tax dollars disappear or banks make money, but they’ll get the money back and start another one. That takes a long time and you need a lot of capital.”
In addition to providing this huge infusion of capital, Miller said he and his wife will continue to be co-workers on Fuller Center job sites in the United States and internationally.
“I like the feel of a hammer in my hand and a job well done,” he said. “I’m going to Nicaragua again in February, and I’ll be at the Millard Fuller Legacy Build (in Shreveport Sept. 27-Oct. 2, 2015). You meet new people all the time, and you accomplish something. Whenever I’m part of bricks and mortar, I feel like I’ve done something.”