How an ailing child’s Christmas wish became a home for the holidays

How an ailing child’s Christmas wish became a home for the holidays

(Photo, from left: Homeowner partner/volunteer Robin Pierre, homeowner partner and Army veteran Carla Ross and Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project Executive Director Kim Roberts with K’Hairi outside the Ross’ new home in West Point, Georgia.)

K’Hairi has been going in and out of hospitals all eight of his years, just a fact of life with sickle-cell anemia and asthma. Coming home from the hospital used to mean going back to houses that were in terrible condition, exacerbating his health issues.

Yet, when K’Hairi would crawl upon Santa’s lap at the mall every Christmas, he did not wish for anything for himself — not for toys, not even for his sickle-cell to be wiped away. He simply told Santa that he wanted his mother, Army veteran Carla Ross, to have a good home.

Fortunately, Fuller Center for Housing supporters managed to do what Santa Claus could not. In June of this year, dozens of volunteers came together over two hot weeks in West Point, Georgia, to build a simple, decent, energy-efficient home in partnership with Carla and K’Hairi. With the exception of outstanding Minnesotan house captains Tim DuBois and Charlie Thell, it was a virtually all-local effort from the tri-city communities of Lanett and Valley, Alabama, and West Point.— three adjacent cities along the famous Chattahoochee River. Lanett, by the way, is the hometown of The Fuller Center’s founder, Millard Fuller.

“I wanted The Fuller Center to be the one to step up and give him that wish,” said Kim Roberts, Executive Director of the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project, one of more than 70 local Fuller Center partners across the United States, in addition to 20 more around the world. “He deserved that wish. What a Christmas wish!”

“It was a lot of work — a lot of hard work was put into it,” Ross said recently as she reflected upon those couple of weeks in June and settling into the home in the weeks afterward. “But it makes you appreciate it more.”

“We were very blessed on this build — just to see K’Hairi’s smile. I think this is going to change his life, and it’s going to help his family.” — Kim Roberts, Executive Director, Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project

Ross has worked multiple jobs and been furthering her education since leaving the Army. She is not the type to look for a handout, which made her an excellent fit to partner with The Fuller Center for Housing. Homeowner partners not only must contribute sweat equity in the building of their homes, but they also must repay the costs of materials on terms they can afford — at zero-percent interest with no profit made — into a Fund for Humanity to help others in her community get the same hand-up. In fact, Ross’ home was the 37th new house built by the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project, and she can see those payments at work right next door today as CFCP broke ground on house No. 38 earlier this week.

“It’s not given to you,” said Ross, echoing a feeling many military veterans have expressed about preferring a hand-up from The Fuller Center over a handout. “It’s not free. The labor doesn’t cost anything, but it’s not free. But we don’t have to pay all the extra stuff and interest. We’re just paying for the house itself. That’s exciting.”

“Our veterans deserve a decent place to live,” said Roberts, who added that a $25,000 grant from Home Depot helped make this project possible. “Home Depot loves our veterans. If it wasn’t for our veterans, we probably wouldn’t be standing here today being able to speak what we want to say. I thank Carla for that — and for being a wonderful mom to K’Hairi and taking very good care of him.”

Not only is Ross’ zero-interest mortgage payment hundreds of dollars less than that for which she could rent a substandard property, but she will someday own the home outright. As theologian Clarence Jordan (a mentor to Millard Fuller) once said: “What the poor need is not charity, but capital; not case workers, but co-workers.”

Another financial benefit is that new Fuller Center homes are extremely energy-efficient. With K’Hairi’s health issues, they cannot allow their home’s air to become thick, muggy and stale in the Georgia heat. Ross understood the home would be energy-efficient, but she still experienced reverse sticker shock when she got her first utility bill this past summer. She was certain she had been undercharged by the power company.

“There was a $300 difference,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Are you sure this is for the whole month?’ It’s a really big difference.”

The Ross build provided a spiritual lift for the entire community. For Roberts, seeing K’Hairi’s wish come true and the community support that made it happen is the kind of positive story that makes the daily struggles of running a nonprofit worthwhile.

“It was just amazing to see the way the local community came out to support this — just to give K’Hairi a decent place to live,” Roberts said. “You know, when you feel bad or are sick, you need a decent place to lay your head. We wanted K’Hairi to have that.

“We were very blessed on this build — just to see K’Hairi’s smile,” she added. “I think this is going to change his life, and it’s going to help his family.”

Of course, now that K’Hairi and his mother have a simple, decent home to spend the holidays, he is free to ask Santa Claus for something else this Christmas. When asked what will be on his wish list this year, K’Hairi thought for a moment and then responded earnestly:

“I wish every kid in the world had a good home, too.”

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Click here to support K’Hairi’s new wish



New house for once-homeless Army veteran, wife built in memory of teen

New house for once-homeless Army veteran, wife built in memory of teen

(Photo, from left: Fuller Center for Housing of Northwest Louisiana Executive Director Lee Jeter, Sterling and Rhonda Combs, Bryan and Peri Reed. Mrs. Combs is holding a photo of Molly Reed, in whose memory their home was built.)

Army veteran Sterling Combs and his wife, Rhonda, have seen their share of hard times, but they have come all the way back from years of addiction and homelessness. Today, they have a new two-bedroom, one-bath Fuller Center home in Bossier City, Louisiana, thanks to churches and a community that came together to honor Molly Reed’s spirit of joy and compassion.

Molly Reed

Molly was 15 when she died in a car wreck with friends Katy Watkins and Emily Perdue in 2006. All three girls were passionate about helping others, and two Bossier City homes already have been built in honor of Katy Watkins. A future home is planned in honor of Emily Perdue.

“There’s a lot of people struggling like me and my husband. I just want them to know, there is help and there is hope,” Rhonda Combs told KSLA-TV, whose coverage you can view at this link.

She also told KTBS-3 News that she plans to start a community garden in Molly’s memory from which seniors who are struggling to buy food can simply come and pick what they need.

The new Fuller Center home for Sterling and Rhonda Combs — who both work at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center — is the 57th new home built by The Fuller Center for Housing of Northwest Louisiana. The 58th, also for a veteran, is under way in Shreveport, just across the river from Bossier City. Financial and volunteer support from The Simple Church and Asbury United Methodist Church, along with Fuller Center donors, helped make this project possible.

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The Bossier Press-Tribune covered Tuesday’s entire dedication ceremony, which you can watch in this video:

Disabled Army veteran says becoming homeowner “a dream come true”

Disabled Army veteran says becoming homeowner “a dream come true”

Gavin Billbe is a disabled Army veteran who never thought he would have the opportunity to own his own home, but thanks to one of The Fuller Center for Housing’s newest partners — the Community Mission of Minersville, Pennsylvania — and the generous donor of a vacant property that just needs a little fixing up, Billbe will soon have a dream fulfilled. WNEP-TV has a new report on how a pastor’s determination to help the homeless have decent places to live through The Fuller Center’s affordable housing ministry has given Billbe an opportunity he never thought possible until now:

All I want is for my mom to have a nice house, boy repeatedly wished; now she will

All I want is for my mom to have a nice house, boy repeatedly wished; now she will

When you’re Santa Claus, you get a lot of predictable Christmas wishes when kids sit upon your lap at the mall — dolls, video games, swing-sets … maybe even a pony. Simple enough. But what do you do when 7-year-old K’Hairi climbs onto your lap?

K’Hairi, who suffers from sickle-cell disease in addition to sleep apnea and asthma, has asked Santa the last few years for something rather difficult to put in his sleigh — even tougher than a pony. He asked for his mother to have a nice house.

Even as his mother Carla Ross, a U.S. Army veteran attempted to rein in those high hopes, K’Hairi insisted that dreams do come true. On Wednesday, in West Point, Georgia, K’Hairi won that argument with no help from Santa but with the help of several partners in the area.

Kim Roberts with K’Hairi

Hundreds of student volunteers from Point University packed downtown West Point, Georgia, to assemble wall packages provided by CrossRoads Missions — walls that will be raised during a two-week Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project build in June. A grant from Home Depot is funding the build that will be led by frequent volunteer construction leaders Tim DuBois and Charlie Thell of Minnesota.

“That K’Hairi has always wished this for his mom just makes it even more wonderful,” said Kim Roberts, Executive Director of the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project, who said the build will begin on June 12.

“He said,’Mama, I told you dreams, wishes, hopes, and prayers do come true,'” Carla recalled. “K’Hairi doesn’t give up. He’s my inspiration to not quit.”

Point University, a Christian university based in downtown West Point, used the wall assembly day as part of its Impact Day that encourages community service and putting faith into action. On Tuesday, Batson-Cook Construction sent a team of volunteers to do preliminary cutting and set up for the assembly.

Trustees from the local jail will provide most of the labor for the two-week build, an idea promoted by DuBois and Thell, who saw several trustees in action during the fall’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in nearby Valley, Ala.

“A lot of guys said they learned a lot during the build and it did wonders for their spirits,” Roberts said. “One of them now comes by our store every day. He got a temp job that turned into a full-time job, and now he’s gotten a raise and just purchased a trailer. Everyone enjoyed working with them during the Legacy Build.”

Photo gallery from Wednesday’s Impact Day with Point University:

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