It’s not hard to find the small, western Oklahoma town of Elk City. All you’ve got to do is hop on perhaps America’s most famous highway — Route 66.
Elk City is one of many towns along the roadway made famous in song, film and books, but it’s the only stop along the route that is home to the National Route 66 Museum. It’s also home to Scott Grubitz, president of the newest Fuller Center for Housing covenant partner.
Grubitz was one of many in the community troubled by the town’s lack of adequate housing and by how struggling families were being impacted by a city government with a growing list of houses slated for demolition — at a cost to the owners.
“If our city determines that a house has to be demolished, they charge the family for that,” he said. “And that can be thousands of dollars, plus use of the landfill.”
Grubitz felt compelled to step in.
“I stood up trying to save these people’s house, and I was the first person to ever do it,” said Grubitz, who organized a group of people to tear down the home themselves, saving the family an estimated $6,000 or $7,000. “And I think the minute that everyone saw someone willing to take a stand, the whole town kind of rallied around it. Everybody’s wanted to do this forever, and I keep telling them that when someone wants to hand out the credit for this, it wasn’t me. I was just the guy that raised my hand.”
In raising his hand, he planted the seed that would become The Fuller Center of Elk City. Now, when the city determines that a house needs to be demolished, it will contact The Fuller Center first and let them decide whether its volunteers can turn the property into a safe and decent home.
“We’ll make an evaluation and decide if it’s worth repairing or if it’s a lost cause,” Grubitz said. “We’re blessed that there’s a lot of contractors out here and people that are like-minded. If we’re not interested in a house, there’s kind of a pecking order right after us. Some of those guys give us good advice, too. We’ve got a real synergy thing going on here.”
“Scott saw a need in his community and took it upon himself to do something about it,” Director of U.S. Field Operations Kirk Lyman-Barner said of the Elk City architect. “It was music to my ears when Scott told me his vision is to rescue homes slated for demolition and the landfill by restoring them to livable condition.
“The region has been blessed by an economy driven by the oil industry, and the Fuller Center of Elk City will be proponents for matching volunteer and financial resources with families in need,” Lyman-Barner added. “We are very impressed and excited by this new covenant partner.”
While many covenant partners face a challenge in spreading word about their work, that likely won’t be a problem for The Fuller Center of Elk City. It’s board members including Elk City Daily News owner Elizabeth Perkinson and managing editor Bob Fisher. Click here to see the Jan. 25 copy of the Daily News with its cover story about joining the ranks of The Fuller Center for Housing.
Perkinson’s grandmother once played host to President Jimmy Carter (a longtime friend and supporter of Fuller Center for Housing founder Millard Fuller) when he visited the town March 24, 1979, fulfilling a pledge to return to the city where he made a campaign stop in 1975. In a 2009 interview with the Associated Press, President Carter remembered the visit fondly.
“I visited at least 50 places for town hall meetings when I was president, and the best one I ever had in my life was in Elk City,” he said.
For more information about The Fuller Center of Elk City, call 580-339-2205. If you wish to donate, make checks payable to Fuller Center of Elk City and mail to:
Fuller Center of Elk City
114 North Main St.
Elk City, OK 73644