Day one of the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build is in the books in Indianapolis with five new houses well under way in the east Indianapolis neighborhood best known as Tuxedo Park.
But don’t let the name fool you. This is hardly a ritzy area. There is a plethora of run-down houses and vacant properties. Many windows are covered with boards, while some homes are in even worse shape with collapsing roofs or fire damage. Weeds dominate the front yards, and vines are strangling many of the homes.
However, dozens of Fuller Center for Housing volunteers from across the nation are providing a tremendous lift to Tuxedo Park this week. On Monday, they erected the walls and trusses for five new homes in the area — with Fuller Center of Central Indiana President Chuck Vogt noting that these are the first new home permits in this zip code in three decades.
LONGING FOR ‘THE WAY THINGS WERE’
Patricia Vernon will not be living in any of the five new Fuller Center homes being built in her neighborhood, but she might have boasted the biggest and most enduring smile on Monday. She has lived in the same house on North Bradley Avenue for 78 years and has longed for a resurrection of the area she loves.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Vernon, who serves as president of the Grace Tuxedo Park Neighborhood Association. “I think it’s wonderful to see the young people and volunteers who have come in from The Fuller Center. I think it’s absolutely superb.”
Vernon spent Monday going back and forth on North Bradley with the help of her walker — thanking volunteers, chatting with the soon-to-be new homeowners and neighbors and even sitting down for a live, on-air interview with Coolgroove Radio personality Harold Bell who broadcast his show from the work site.
“I’d like to see us go back to the way things were when we could leave our doors unlocked and walk back and forth to the store without having a problem,” she said. “I’ve met the family that’s moving in across the street, and they’re wonderful. The whole neighborhood, we’re all going to be family.”
IT’S A ‘BLESSING’ BUT NOT A HANDOUT
The family across the street to which she was referring is the Morrisses — J.R. and Tia Morris and their four children.
“It’s a blessing,” Tia Morris said of seeing volunteers from across the nation come to work alongside her family. “I just pray over each and every one — every heart and hand that’s involved. I thank God for them.”
She added that she would become the first person in her family to be a homeowner, something which makes her more than happy to contribute the required sweat equity and future repayments.
“I’m so excited to even be allowed to participate in the process,” she said. “It’s nothing given. Everything is earned. The Lord has blessed us with this, but we do have to contribute time and we do have to pay for it. It’s a hand-up, and I really do appreciate that because a lot of people need that.”
MOTHER OF HOMEOWNER: GOD MUST WANT HER HERE
Licia Keiser does not have any kids of her own, but her Fuller Center home likely will be bustling with even more youthful energy than the Morris house a block up the avenue. Keiser ministers to children in the area through her work with the nearby Shepherd Community Center, which works to try to break the cycle of poverty in the east side of Indianapolis.
“She’s been wanting to live in the neighborhood with the children she ministers,” her mother Lynn Keiser said while working alongside her daughter on Monday. “We prayed that she could find a house here, and God must want her here. It’s a true blessing from God. We see God working in that she’s here.”
“The kids are all over in this area,” Licia Keiser said. “When I came here, I knew that I wanted to live right where my kids were living, right where I’m working because I’m doing stuff with them all the time, and I want to be right where they are.”
The only people more excited about her move into the neighborhood may be the very children to whom she ministers.
“It will not be a quiet house,” she said with a laugh. “The kids have already asked me if they can help me move in, when we’re gonna have the first hangout at my house, when we’re gonna have a pizza party, if we’re gonna have a movie night, so they’re really excited to get to come over and hang out with me.”
BUILDING WALLS … AND A BETTER WORLD IN THE PROCESS
One of The Fuller Center for Housing’s most consistent in-kind partners is CrossRoads Missions, which provides pre-assembled wall packages for many new home builds. Working through its Help Build Hope program, volunteers assemble the walls per a house plan. The wall packages are delivered to Fuller Center covenant partners, allowing them to accelerate the building process.
Help Build Hope Project Coordinator Dave Lockwood visited the site Monday along with Help Build Hope Director of Engagement Raymond Bodley to see how their wall packages were being utilized in Indianapolis. You can see an interview with the two men below: