(Photo: Doug Miller is serving as a block captain at this year’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis. He has been to numerous builds in the U.S. and internationally and is a generous financial supporter of The Fuller Center for Housing’s work.)
The Millard Fuller Legacy Build is a weeklong project, but for longtime Fuller volunteer and supporter Doug Miller, it all builds up to a single day … actually, a single moment.
“I love the dedication,” he said Thursday where volunteers scrambled to get exteriors done before rain moved in with a near 100 percent chance of precipitation for Friday’s Dedication Day. “When it’s done, you feel like a million bucks and it’s a little bit of payback.”
Miller first got involved with Millard Fuller’s affordable housing ministry in 1999, when he participated in the Jimmy Carter Work Project in The Philippines. It was there that he got to know Fuller and meet President Carter, who years later would welcome Doug and wife Jill to their home in Plains to thank them personally for their financial support of The Fuller Center for Housing. According to Miller, he almost had no choice but to become a mainstay of the ministry.
“If I didn’t show up for a build,” he’d call, Miller said with a chuckle as he recalled his relationship with Fuller. “Naturally, I had to go. He was very persuasive. From that day in Manila on, I’ve been behind Millard and Linda and David Snell.”
As a block captain, Miller is keeping his eye on multiple work sites at this year’s build rather than swinging his hammer at a single house. But whatever role he can perform with The Fuller Center, he’s happy to do so — whether it’s shoveling mortar in Nicaragua or helping solve the urgent issues that constantly pop up during a blitz build like this one.
“Usually the chaos is the first four or five hours,” he said of blitz days. “You’ve got hundreds of people coming together with different personalities, different egos — all with a big heart and wanting to do the right thing. By five or six o’clock, we’re all going to eat and everybody is now on a team. And it works. … All in all, I don’t think anybody has a complaint at the end of the week.”
ELDON GRABER, Phoenix, Arizona
Another fixture on these builds is Mr. Graber. Of course, when you say “Mr. Graber” on a Fuller Center Legacy Build site, you have to be a lot more specific as that could mean any of the Graber brothers — Merle, Ray, Steve or Eldon.
“It’s a family thing,” Eldon said of the brothers getting together on blitz builds, adding that he has been on about a dozen between The Fuller Center and Habitat for Humanity. “We like to go together and talk some of our friends into going along.”
Of course, having a few Graber boys on the site is not just about a family reunion. They are all expert builders, and that makes for a smooth build, especially when they do succeed in talking friends into going along.
“We know we’ve got experienced help to spread out with the younger kids and whoever to just make the project go easier,” Eldon said.
BRENDA DENNIS, Tuxedo Park resident
Brenda Dennis has lived on the corner of New York Street and North Bradley Avenue for three decades — during which time there have been no home building permits issued in her zip code … until now. And she welcomes the construction noise as she walks the street visiting with the volunteers who are making this possible and thanking them for their service.
“Haven’t seen any new ones at all,” she said of homes in the area. “I’ve seen a lot of them go down. I love to see this rebuilding, bringing back our neighborhood — taking it back for the right people.”
The “right people” include families like J.R. and Tia Morris and their four children, who will be moving into the Fuller Center home being built closest to her house on North Bradley. Dennis has checked in daily on the progress and visited with the family.
“Bringing back the neighborhood benefits all of us — especially the kids, our next generation,” she said, adding that she would be willing to put up with the noise all summer long if she had to. “I really appreciate it. It even makes other neighborhoods aware that they can come back, too. The ones who don’t want to do the right thing, we can get them away from our neighborhoods and take them back and build our city back.”