What started as a conversation between friends turned into a community event Saturday night that raised enough money to build an entire home, and totaled $55,847.25.
During the First Annual Fuller Center Fish Fry in Americus, Ga., more than 300 residents came through the Sumter County fairgrounds to have their fill of catfish, chicken nuggets, fried turnips, hush puppies and cheese grits. The event was put on by the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing covenant partner.
The idea for the fish fry came when Americus resident Jacob Battle was fishing with his close friend Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity and The Fuller Center. They talked about times years ago that Battle would fry fish in Habitat’s parking lot. They imagined doing one for the Fuller Center, maybe raising money to build a house in Sumter County.
After Fuller passed away in February, Battle worked hard to make that vision a reality. But Battle didn’t work alone.
"I think for us to raise over $55,000 during a recession and in the short time we put this together is tremendous," Battle said. "This has given us an opportunity in Sumter County to come together–residents, church, city and government."
In addition to keynote speaker and former Americus resident Georgia Congressman Paul Broun, the evening featured a raffle with prizes from 20 area merchants. The night also included performances by musical group Unbroken and the Zion Hope Youth Choir.
Nine local restaurants donated food and a group of men from Calvary Episcopal Church fried it all up.
After being introduced by Americus Mayor Barry Blount, Congressman Broun spoke about Millard and Linda Fuller’s accomplishments and the momentum that’s still building today.
"Tonight isn’t about me, and it isn’t about politics," Broun said. "It’s about a dream Millard Fuller and his wife Linda had many years ago. Millard had a dream to try to provide housing to people who were underprivileged."
"He was trying to serve the people here in Sumter County and the people of the world. Because of Millard’s dream people all over this world tonight are in a home that they own, or they are buying and are paying for through their own efforts."
Linda Fuller, co-founder of the Fuller Center for Housing, was in attendance. She remembered the support the community showed for Habibtat for Humanity’s Sumter County Initiative to build 500 homes in the area to eradicate poverty housing locally.
"The Fish Fry this weekend was just one more example of this continuing support of Millard’s vision of ‘No More Shacks,’ not only in Americus and Sumter County, but all over the world," she said.
Chair of the local Fuller Center board, Kirk Lyman-Barner took a moment to announce that a tithing check for $4,500 was sent to the Fuller Center Peru.
"In addition to a family here in Americus, there is a family in Peru that is going to get a house because of all of you in here," Lyman-Barner said.
Battle closed the event by addressing the crowd. "I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your love, generosity and compassion," he said.
Click here to learn more about the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center.