Photo: Few volunteers have been to more blitz builds than has California’s Terry Gleason. You can read more about Terry in the last profile of this post.
Legacy Build volunteers explain what drew them to Lanett this year
LANETT, Alabama — The Millard Fuller Legacy Build always brings a mix of volunteers to the job site.
There are the veterans with a long record of builds on their volunteer resumes. You could call them “grizzled” build veterans, but it might be best to use that adjective early in the morning before they have put in a full day’s work.
There are the locals who give a week of their time, or even just a day, to be part of something special in their community. There are others who have a smattering of Fuller Center for Housing experiences through the years and those who have come to the build through the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure, Disaster ReBuilders and church involvement.
We chatted with a few of the volunteers at this year’s build to find out why they are giving their time this week to help families have simple, decent places to live and raise their children. Here’s what they told us:
A middle school math teacher at VIP Academy in Macon, Georgia, Jennifer is no stranger to volunteering on Fuller Center projects. In fact, this is her second stint volunteering at a Legacy Build hosted by the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project as she also worked at the 2016 build in adjacent Valley, Alabama. Since then, she has volunteered with the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders — including three different weeks on Hurricane Harvey recovery in Texas in 2018 and a week last year doing Hurricane Ida recovery work in Louisiana.
“I love to work with The Fuller Center” she says. “I like to come learn. I like to be among like-minded people. I take skills I learn here and use them to work on my own house with more confidence — or if I hire contractor, I have a clue if they know what they’re doing. I like to do this kind of stuff.”
As the boss of her classroom, she is eager for the chance to be more of a student on Fuller Center job sites.
“I’m a teacher, so I’m used to being in charge,” she says. “This puts me in a different kind of role on my school break so that I’m not in charge because I don’t know enough to be in charge here. I get to do what I’m led to do, which is a totally different frame of mind for me.
“There are a lot of different pieces that come together that make this a good way to spend a week.”
Doug has been a volunteer and house captain on multiple Fuller Center builds through the years and with Habitat for Humanity. In fact, he was in El Salvador in 2008 for what would become Millard Fuller’s final blitz build. Earlier that same year, Doug rode from California to Georgia on the first-ever Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure.
“I like working with these people,” he says. “I enjoy the mission of the organization, and I look forward once a year to coming out and doing this kind of stuff.”
SHERRI GIVENS & LINDA HEAVLIN
Sherri and Linda come as a friends team package to this week. They were fellow church members at Covenant Presbyterian in Auburn and were among many church friends and other volunteers who sprung into action after a massive tornado struck parts of their county in March of 2019. After learning that The Fuller Center was going to build 11 houses during the 2019 Legacy Build in Beauregard as part of the tornado recovery, they wanted to join the effort.
“We thought: ‘I wonder if they would let us help with that. We don’t know how to build a house,'” Sherri recalls of that momentous build in record-breaking fall heat. Although, their first day on a Fuller Center build, they encountered a bit of a language barrier:
“Our first day, the house leader Chuck Ingraham started spouting out words like Tyvek and OSB and some kind of joint, and we just looked at each other like we don’t know anything he’s talking about,” Sherri remembers. “Then he said he needed somebody to clean up the trash and we were like, ‘Hey, we know how to do that!’ We kind of went from there.”
Not only did they quickly gain new skills — including the ability to wrap a house in Tyvek as they did on Tuesday — but the two friends also became friends with The Fuller Center, including the Bicycle Adventure. There just happened to be a strong contingent of Adventurers assigned to the same house they worked on in 2019. Then-Bicycle Adventure leader Courtney Fields encouraged them to give the ride a try, so Sherri and Linda’s next friend-venture was the Tour de Florida ride. Then, they came together again last year at the Legacy Build in West Point, Georgia.
“This is a way to get to spend time with Sherri and do something fun together,” Linda says. “It’s just a great group of people, such kind of people. It’s such a great week to serve together. To see people who need homes to be blessed with a home is just great. It’s just a great opportunity to serve here and see how the Lord works. Everybody gets along. There’s no arguing or anything. It’s just a great atmosphere.”
Charles is not only a local volunteer — he is a hyper-local volunteer as he walked to the 2022 Millard Fuller Legacy Build. He did not know about the build coming but heard the commotion and joined in the very first day. Actually, he was one of a handful of volunteers setting up walls on Sunday, one day before building was set to begin.
“It’s great to have something positive to do,” says Charles, who has construction experience and recently moved back to his hometown of Lanett after 48 years away. “I like goodness and living in the favor of God. This is something I like to do, and it’s right down my alley.”
“These people are blessed by God, like me, and I’m glad to be with them.”
Sandy and husband Edward came from Sugar Land, Texas, for this year’s Legacy Build because they wanted to not only witness God’s love in action, but they also wanted to help spread it by putting their faith into action.
“What brings us here is that we wanted to serve the Lord, and we wanted to do something that was tangible and that can change lives,” she says. “This is just an ideal organization and we thoroughly support it.”
You will have to forgive Terry if he cannot give you an exact number on how many Habitat for Humanity and then Fuller Center for Housing builds on which he has volunteered over the years. This Legacy Build is already his fourth build of the year. Then again, he has been on three to four builds a year for more than 20 years. Why is he so willing to put in the work?
“No, it’s not work — it’s fun!” he insists. “I enjoy the people. I enjoy the work. And it keeps me off the streets — well, it keeps me off the golf course.
“The intrinsic value we get out of this is friendship, the friends you make here,” he adds. “I made friends 20 years ago on that I still keep in contact with.”