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We often say “We’re building a better world, one house at a time.” But this ministry is about more than houses. It’s really about people — people in need, people who care and people whose lives are being transformed. Meet a few now:
K’HAIRI & CARLA ROSS, A Christmas wish come true in West Point, Ga.
K’Hairi used to climb upon Santa Claus’ lap every Christmas and ask for only one thing — not for toys or even for his sickle-cell anemia to be cured — but for his mother, Army veteran Carla Ross to have a good home. At the age of 7, in June 2017, he got his wish. It wasn’t Santa but instead dozens of volunteers who came together in West Point, Georgia, to build a safe, energy-efficient and affordable home — allowing Carla to focus on caring for K’Hairi instead of living paycheck to paycheck. Before celebrating their first Christmas in the home, we asked K’Hairi what he’d tell Santa he wanted. He replied: “I wish every kid in the world had a good home, too.” Read more about K’Hairi and Carla here.
JOYCE FORBES, Flood victim in Walker, Louisiana
For 92-year-old Joyce Forbes, it was an excruciatingly long 15 months away from home after historic flooding in 2016 damaged her house last year in Walker, Louisiana. But thanks to the Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders, she had a bittersweet homecoming before Christmas 2017 as she was finally able to return to her refurbished home. It was bittersweet because her husband passed away in April, but she says he was there in spirit for the dedication ceremony. Long after the spotlight has faded from disasters, we work to help those who were left behind or who fell through the cracks. You can read complete coverage of the emotional return in The Livingston Parish News at this link.
LORIE PERDIEU: Homeowner partner & local board member
“They kept their promise to me,” Lorie says of The Fuller Center of Greater Kansas City. Born with a disability that affects every joint in her body, she had rented a tiny apartment before partnering with The Fuller Center to build a home designed specifically for her needs. Though she couldn’t swing a hammer on the worksite to fulfill her “sweat equity,” she was a great asset as she worked in the Fuller Center office. Having once believed owning a home was impossible, she now serves on The Fuller Center of Greater Kansas City’s board of directors to help others have hope and get help. Click here to read an article from the Kansas City Star that offers an in-depth examination of The Fuller Center’s work and features Lorie’s story.
EVELYN MARTINEZ-PALACIO: Homeowner partner, El Salvador
No matter where you stand on the issue of illegal immigration, you can sympathize with the plight of Evelyn, a single mother of two children who was considering leaving her beloved home country for the United States. She was weighing whether the uncertain possibilities of a better life in the U.S. would be worth risking a treacherous journey from her homeland. But when The Fuller Center began working in her community of Nuevo Cuscatlan, she found hope at home. Her family has moved from a shack on a mudslide-prone hill to a brand new Fuller Center home — as have dozens of her neighbors. “The idea of going to the United States, it’s gone now. We’re doing well here and we have a home together,” Evelyn says. To read more, click here.
ANA TARAZONA RAMOS: Homeowner partner & volunteer
After years of moving from rental homes to rented rooms and being victimized by ruthless landlords, Ana left the slums of Lima with her three children and took off for the mountain community of La Florida, Peru. She had little more than a hope and a dream that The Fuller Center for Housing she’d heard rumblings about would be able to help her start a new life for her children. Indeed, Ana’s children now have a safe and stable home in which to grow and are excelling in school. And Ana has become a leader — even being elected mayor — in La Florida, whose friendly people make it a favorite destination for our Global Builders teams. Click here to watch an emotional 4-minute video of Ana describing how The Fuller Center has changed the lives of her and her children.
JOSH HIMAN: Homeowner partner and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, wounded in Afghanistan
Marine Lance Cpl. Josh Himan’s life was altered dramatically while serving in Afghanistan in September 2009. That’s when he was riding in a Humvee that struck a roadside bomb, ejecting him from the vehicle. His injuries — including a broken neck and fractured spine — left him paralyzed from the waist down. For more than a year, he spent time in various medical facilities and underwent rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But he couldn’t go home because his family’s house in Woodbridge, Va., was not equipped for his wheelchair and his unique needs — that is, until The Fuller Center for Housing stepped in and refurbished the home. There wasn’t a dry eye to be found when Josh arrived for the dedication ceremony. Click here for more details.
MELISSA: No longer worried about mudslides and illnesses in Nuevo, Cuscatlán, El Salvador
When we first met Melissa in November of 2015, she lived with her mother and 3-year-old brother in a shack perilously resting on a muddy, filthy hillside. Worse, her home was surrounded by dozens more just like it. Working in partnership with New Story Charity and Fuller Center supporters and local partners, we’ve moved Melissa and her family — along with dozens of others — into a decent home. In fact, by the end of 2016, we will have finished moving 78 more families like Melissa’s from the rural shack slum into a beautiful community of simple, decent homes. You can see Melissa’s mother express her gratitude in a video at this link, where you can meet three more families who were among the first to get new homes in this project..
LILLIE BARNES OGATA: A young go-getter
Fannie Smith was a 92-year-old whose West Point, Georgia, home was falling down around her. Neither the stove nor the toilet worked. The ceiling was drooping and only one, tiny gas heater was available to warm her. The Fuller Center repaired the home to safe condition — with the help of Lillie Barnes Ogata. Lillie wanted to volunteer to work at our first Millard Fuller Legacy Build but was too young to work on a construction site. So, for her ninth birthday, Lillie asked her friends to make small donations instead of buying her gifts. She then presented a $137 check to The Fuller Center to help make repairs on Mrs. Smith’s home, which now has a renovated kitchen and bathroom, along with new windows and energy-efficient heaters. Click here for more.
KIM ROBERTS: Director, Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project
Kim does much more than lead one of our busiest covenant partners in founder Millard Fuller’s hometown of Lanett, Alabama — she has become like one of the family for our homeowner partners in the community. Whether it’s helping a blind homeowner go shopping for food or helping a severely brain-damaged girl take a shower in her new home, Kim goes above and beyond. Kim is a double-amputee, but nothing slows her down. “Ms. Kim is beautiful,” Fuller Center homeowner Mattie Murphy says with tears in her eyes. “She’s beautiful outside and inside, too. She’ll do anything she can to help you.” Click here to watch a 4-minute video featuring an interview with Kim Roberts, Ms. Murphy and others in Lanett.
MIGUEL DIAZ: First Philadelphia homeowner partner
Every birthday, Miguel’s daughter Summer had two birthday wishes — for a mother and for a room of her own. Miguel has raised Summer on his own since her mother abandoned the family just after Summer was born, and he was forced to move in with his sister’s family while struggling to find work. Meanwhile, he volunteered often with many organizations including the Special Olympics. His neighbor Shane Claiborne, The Simple Way founder, urged him to have faith that things would get better. Shane would go on to bring The Fuller Center to Philadelphia, where Miguel and Summer became our first homeowner partners in the city. “When I make a payment, it goes to help someone else get a home, and I love that part about it,” he said. Miguel talks about his “dream house” in this video.
CLIFF MALONE: Homeowner partner, veteran & advocate for homeless
Grammy-winning musician John Mayer has more fans than he could ever count. Formerly homeless Army veteran Cliff Malone doesn’t have nearly as many fans, but he can count John Mayer as one of his. Mayer has a soft spot for veterans and showed up in Shreveport with a handful of fans in tow to help Cliff build his home during our Veterans Build. John got a kick out of the fact that Cliff had no clue who he was, allowing the music superstar to be a regular guy for a day. Cliff now appreciates having had a superstar work on his home and vows never to repaint the bedroom John painted. Most of all, Cliff appreciates having a decent home and now works at a homeless shelter, helping people in need climb out of the situation the way he did. More on our veterans page.
KAREN WARKENTIEN: Volunteer-turned-donor-turned-board member
Some people clearly fall into either the category of frequent volunteer or major donor. Karen — or “Toolie” as she is better known in Fuller Center ranks — lands squarely in both. In fact, you can even put a check mark in the Bicycle Adventurer box as she has participated more than once in our annual cycling fundraiser. She has volunteered on multiple builds and sponsored homes. She’s even celebrating her 50th birthday by sponsoring and volunteering at a weeklong blitz build for a family in Americus, Ga. “I know that The Fuller Center is committed to safe, decent and affordable housing, that it’s a hand up and not a handout,” Karen says. “The Fuller Center is back to sort of what Habitat was in the beginning — very grass-roots.”
THAD HARRIS: Homeowner partner and prolific volunteer
A truck accident in 2001 cost Harris the use of his legs and confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He was forced to move in with his parents and sank into despair. But when the Americus, Georgia, resident partnered with The Fuller Center to become a homeowner, his life changed. He logged more than 500 sweat equity hours building his wheelchair friendly and energy-efficient (Gold Energy Star-certified) home. “It woke up something inside of me,” he said of the experience. He has since become one of our most prolific volunteers, rolling into our headquarters in Americus almost daily looking to help others. He even found the courage to ask a woman at his church to marry him. (She said yes!) Click here to learn more about our friend Thad.
HAMBARDZUM: Partner family in busy Armenia shows it’s never too early to contribute
From a construction standpoint, having 3-year-old Hambardzum and his 4-year-old brother David on the worksite may not seem like much of a difference maker. But seeing these young boys get their hands dirty and toting heavy buckets of sand in helping to build the Shekikyan family home in the Kakavadzor village in the Aragatsotn region of Armenia actually made a huge difference. When families (including their children) are full partners in the building process, it gives our volunteers a little extra energy and a lot of extra joy. That’s why “sweat equity” is more than just a requirement of our homeowners; it’s a foundational principle. Hamardzum and David are proud of their work, as are parents Andranik and Lilit. See photos from the worksite here.
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