When The Fuller Center for Housing adds a new covenant partner in the United States, few people are happier than Director of U.S. Field Operations Kirk Lyman-Barner, who usually signs the last page of the agreement with the final flourish of “Welcome to The Fuller Center family!”
With the addition of the newest covenant partner, Desert Communities’ Fuller Center for Housing in California, that welcome has a whole new meaning. One of its board members is Janet Spier, whose late husband Clarence Spier served on The Fuller Center for Housing’s Advisory Council until he died in his sleep on Sept. 18 of last year. On that sad day, Fuller Center President David Snell recalled Clarence Spier as “the definition of a gentleman.”
Of course, that’s not Janet’s only family connection to The Fuller Center for Housing. She has one that goes much further back: Her sister, Linda Fuller Degelmann, is the Fuller Center’s co-founder.
“Janet and Clarence have been supporters of The Fuller Center from the beginning, and she’s always wanted to be able to do something,” Snell said. “She and Clarence both came to a number of builds, including Lanett and Shreveport, and she’s tried to stay close to the organization. And this is really exciting because now she’ll have her own covenant partner right there in her own backyard.”
“This time, my greeting of ‘Welcome to The Fuller Center family’ takes on a whole new meaning because Linda’s sister Janet Spier is on board … literally on the board!” Lyman-Barner said. “She wrote me a nice note after the application was approved.”
In the note, Spier’s words included: Thank you, Kirk, for your kind words of welcome and for working with us to bring The Fuller Center for Housing here to the Coachella Valley. It is a prayer that has been answered in God’s own time with the right folks coming forward to provide youthful and inspired leadership, experienced know-how and a networking capability that puts us well down the road. The ministry will be a blessing to us and to those we serve.
THE DESERT COMMUNITIES
The those we serve to which Spier refers are residents in the Morongo Basin and the Coachella Valley around Palm Springs in hot, arid Southern California. The experienced know-how is in the hands of Desert Communities’ FCH President Jeff Moritz and Vice President Cindy Pieper.
Spier and her late husband started Habitat for Humanity’s Coachella Valley affiliate but had longed in recent years to get it converted to a Fuller Center covenant partner. She says Moritz’s and Pieper’s departures from Habitat and desire to join The Fuller Center was the spark needed to start a covenant partner at last.
"I’m thrilled, and my husband would be, too," Spier said. "If he were with me, he’d be gung-ho and ready to go ahead. I’m just so excited about this. It’s a prayer that has been answered at the right time to attract the right people to it with the right spirit."
Moritz most recently served nine months as executive director of Habitat for Humanity’s Coachella Valley affiliate, during which time the group finished five homes. He did 20 during stints with Habitat affiliates in Plymouth and Cape Cod, Mass.
Pieper, meanwhile, is also a past director of the Coachella Valley Habitat affiliate, while her husband worked with Moritz as Coachella Valley Habitat’s ReStore and construction coordinator. After joining a Fuller Center Global Builders trip this year, she was eager to bring The Fuller Center’s work home.
“She’s a past Habitat president who’d been on the sidelines for a chunk of years, and I was trying to recruit her back onto the (Coachella Habitat) board because the board needed help. We got to know each other well. We talked about (joining The Fuller Center for Housing) briefly upon my exit from Habitat, and we both kind of sent emails to Kirk at the same time.”
While at Habitat’s Coachella affiliate, Moritz said he pushed for a “more sustainable” building model that included less pay-for-construction and a redesign to what he viewed as a more modular, inexpensive and greener home design. He wanted to use more labor from high-schoolers, college students and other volunteers. Moritz and Habitat then parted ways.
“Janet Spier and I had several chats about the direction in which Habitat had gone and that Millard had left and created The Fuller Center,” Moritz said. “So I knew about Fuller even when I was working at Habitat. I kind of looked at Fuller and said, ‘Hmm, they’ve got their head on right in terms of what it is that this mission is all about.’”
With Habitat’s affiliate having dozens on its waiting list when he left, Moritz knows there is still plenty of room for The Fuller Center and others to help people help themselves in an area more known for the ritzy Palm Springs image that attracts the rich and famous for desert getaways.
“There’s about 65 percent of the population that can manage on its own – middle class and upper middle class, retired and wealthy,” he said. “And when I say wealthy, I mean seriously wealthy. The other 35 percent are made up of mostly construction, agricultural and service industry employees who make it on $20,000 to $40,000 a year or are totally unemployed.”
Of the lower-earning 35 percent, Moritz said about 30 percent of those residents live in substandard housing.