Forsyth County is the wealthiest county in the state of Georgia and one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing in the United States. It sits on the west shores of stunning Lake Lanier, Georgia’s largest reservoir and home to luxurious lakefront properties.
But as seems to be the case wherever such luxury abounds, there is another side to the story. Even in the counties surrounding Lake Lanier, there is poverty housing. Now, the Lanier Fuller Center for Housing has formed to help those with means offer a hand up to those in need of decent, affordable housing.
“It’s the richest county in the state of Georgia and that creates an opportunity,” Fuller Center Director of U.S. Field Operations Kirk Lyman-Barner said. “Clarence Jordan said, ‘What the rich need is a wise, honorable and just way of divesting themselves of their overabundance.’ Having this covenant partner will help people to get to know their neighbors in need, by working side by side with them and offering that hand up.”
Chuck Ingraham, a former construction manager for a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in the area, will lead the covenant partner that will be based in Cumming and help families in need of decent housing in Forsyth County other counties surrounding Lake Lanier. He believes wealthy residents and their churches will help the Lanier Fuller Center get off to a fast start — especially by repairing homes through The Fuller Center’s Greater Blessing program.
“We’re going to first concentrate on what I believe are retirees in trouble, those who have owned their home for a long time but may not have the credit or means to repair a roof,” Ingraham said while visiting The Fuller Center’s international headquarters in Americus along with several members of his board of directors. “Those are the ones who I think haven’t been touched and will come out of the woodwork, especially because a lot of them go to church. And these big churches have a lot of income from the who’s who who feel guilty about how good they’re living.”
Ingraham began working on Habitat for Humanity projects before he ever met the man who founded both Habitat and The Fuller Center, Millard Fuller. He finally met Fuller while serving as a greeter at a church where Fuller spoke. He recalls having to be nudged and told who Fuller was when the simply-clothed, unassuming speaker walked into the church. Fuller’s humility impressed him, but it was the speech that inspired him forever more.
“He started talking and I remember going back to my church and talking to my priest and saying, ‘In my 48 years, I just met the closest thing to a modern-day Jesus walking the face of the earth,’” Ingraham recalled. “’The man gave up everything to help other people. He’s living the Golden Rule like nobody I’ve ever seen before. This is incredible. Why weren’t you there? You missed a golden opportunity.’”
And Ingraham is relishing the opportunity to join The Fuller Center, which Fuller formed in an effort to get back to the grass-roots, Christian principles behind the affordable housing ministry he and wife Linda began 40 years ago. Lyman-Barner said the excitement is mutual.
“Chuck brings 15 years of solid experience and great compassion for families in need,” he said. “He also brings a core group of dedicated regulars and a very focused board. Volunteering and service has become a way of life for these folks, and we’re going to enjoy working with them.”