By Chris Johnson
Director of communications
When I announced to folks in Columbus, Ga., that I was taking a job back in Americus with The Fuller Center for Housing, no one questioned why I would accept a position with a nonprofit that does wonderful work around the world. But they did question why I’d want to go back to little ol’ Sumter County.
My response was another question: “Who wouldn’t?”
If I had my druthers, I’d have never left Sumter County after going to college here from 1988-91 and living and working here from 1994-97. I like that from such humble roots spring such greatness. The affordable housing movement that continues with The Fuller Center started right here. A president of the United States came from little, bitty Plains (which is not a fictional town from TV’s “Carter Country”). The area also has produced NFL stars, an Olympic gold medalist, a U.S. Attorney general and, very importantly, Joanna Moore, the actress who played Andy’s girlfriend Miss Peggy on “The Andy Griffith Show.” And if that weren’t enough, we are the chopsticks capital of the world. (Really, we actually ship chopsticks TO China from Americus! Read all about it!)
I’ve found that folks who don’t appreciate what Americus and the surrounding area have to offer are usually folks who’ve never experienced it.
Earlier today, we met with Scott Wright. As Director of Member Services for the North American Retail Hardware Association (NHRA), Scott has seen many cities and been through the doors of many a chain hotel and name-brand restaurant. But he seemed enthralled with the down-home charm, quirkiness and history of the little county we’re so proud of around here.
Scott was down here with Fuller Center board member and Indianapolis City-County Councilman Jeff Cardwell. Jeff’s also many other things, such as a hardware retailer and radio show host, but if we list them all, our website will run out of memory.
Last night, after some down-home conversation on the beautiful second-floor veranda of the historic Windsor Hotel, we set them up at the quaint Plains Inn, where FCH President David Snell insinuates Jeff and Scott were as excited about the accommodations as would be a couple of kids who’d never stayed in a hotel before. Today, they got a tour of Koinonia Farm, coffee from Cafe Campesino and had lunch at Gladys’ Kitchen. (By the way, if my health-conscious girlfriend asks, DO NOT tell her I had the fried chicken! I couldn’t help myself.) I could tell Scott was enthralled by our slice of small-town America and the greatness that emerges from such grass roots. He’s already talking about coming back with his wife and three daughters – albeit for fun, not business.
He did talk a little business today. As I said, Scott is with the NRHA, which is not to be confused with the NHRA, which governs drag racing. When I first saw that we were having a visitor from the NRHA, I misread it as NHRA and thought the visit would last only about six seconds. Thankfully, it lasted a little longer.
The NRHA works with thousands of independent hardware retailers and lumber yards and such across North America. They help those retailers compete with the big box hardware stores and help them utilize their advantages to benefit from the Buy Local movement and connect with their communities in ways their bigger competitors can’t. They’ve also launched a very handy site for do-it-yourselfers that you should check out, www.PlanitDIY.com.
We talked about the many ways we can work together. The Fuller Center is a very grass-roots organization built on personal connections. We’re kindred spirits with the NRHA. And this won’t be the last you’ll hear of the NRHA and Fuller Center working together. A little voice tells me this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Hmm, that little voice sounds just like Humphrey Bogart. Weird!
We’ll be seeing Scott and Jeff on their turf next month at FCH Central Indiana’s Labor Day Build. And we hope Scott and his family can make it down to Sumter County again very soon. Next time, maybe Monroe’s Hot Dogs won’t be closed for the week, and we can introduce them to another local landmark. (Just don’t tell my girlfriend about that, either!)