FAITH IN ACTION: Jewish documentarian inspired by Christian charity

FAITH IN ACTION: Jewish documentarian inspired by Christian charity

(This is the latest installment of our “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story of how involvement with The Fuller Center has impacted your faith, please let us know at this link.)

There were many common sights at the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis back in June.

You could not open your eyes in the Tuxedo Park area that week without seeing hard hats, mud, sawhorses, pickup trucks, tool trailers … and Jan Rosenberg with her large camera.

Jan Rosenberg

The founder of Heritage Education Resources, now based in Bloomington, Indiana, is passionate about history and preservation. The idea of a build to rejuvenate a once-thriving, historic area of Indianapolis was intriguing, and she spent the entire week documenting the project in photos and through countless interviews with volunteers and local residents.

Also, as a Jewish woman, she was interested to see the Christian nonprofit Fuller Center for Housing in action.

“I am Jewish — a believer in the Deuteronomy edict, ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,'” Rosenberg said. “With that in mind, my internal question was: How do people express their love of God through their acknowledgement of John 3:16 and how was this done by building houses that became homes?”

“The answer, for this group of volunteers, was plain and powerful,” she added. “Love, strength, skill, and the willingness to put all of that into a structure was all so present, not only with the builders, but with the families who I interviewed. It all didn’t change my spiritual relations as a Jew, but it did provide me with the belief that (1) God is love, and (2) that there are so many ways of expressing that.”

The five new homes built during that week were the historic neighborhood’s first new home builds in decades. It reminded long-time residents of its thriving past and encouraged others to spruce up their properties. While most people hailed the build as a starting point for a brighter future, Rosenberg is now focused on Tuxedo Park’s past.

“I took over 500 photographs and have written a small book on the Legacy Build in Indianapolis,” she said. ” am now designing and implementing an archive, research facility, and an oral history project for the neighborhood church, Tuxedo Park Baptist Church on North Grant. This is one place where I can do my bit in service to God and community.”



SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “partnership”

SERIES: The terms that define our mission — “partnership”

(Photo: Group shot from the first day of the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis.)

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about terms that define how The Fuller Center for Housing works to help families have simple, decent places to live. On Sunday, we’ll wrap up this series with a look at the meaning of “faith-based.”


Whom do you see in this group photo from June’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis? If you’re well-acquainted and heavily involved with The Fuller Center for Housing, you can probably list a whole bunch of familiar names you see — David and Sheilla Snell, Chuck and Joyce Vogt, Jeff Cardwell, LeRoy Troyer, Chuck Lee, Bob Pack, Mary Lou Bowman, Doug Miller, and … well, if I listed every name I see in this picture I wouldn’t be able to write about today’s topic — “partnership.”

For those of you who might be less familiar with The Fuller Center, let me give you a general overview of who’s in that picture — a neighborhood association president, homeowners, volunteers, house captains, nonprofit executives, political leaders, city representatives, church members and youth from the Church of the Nazarene, whose General Assembly coincided with our Legacy Build.

All of these good folks came together in partnership to help five families have simple, decent places to live in the neighborhood of Tuxedo Park, a blitz build that marked a turning point for a once-thriving east Indy area that had been on the decline for decades. No more.

You can’t build five homes in a week without a lot of partners. You can’t build 200 homes in Haiti, El Salvador and Nigeria without partners. You can’t build and repair hundreds of homes in Louisiana, Kentucky and Georgia without partners. Building a single home takes partners.

The Fuller Center’s affordable housing ministry sprung from theologian Clarence Jordan’s teachings at Koinonia Farm in the 1960s, where his final days were spent sharpening the concepts of partnership economics, including partnership housing. One particular line from his writings is oft-cited by The Fuller Center:

Clarence Jordan

What the poor need is not charity, but capital; not case workers but co-workers.”

That directly explains our partnership with homeowners. They are not charity cases. They work alongside our volunteers and repay the costs of materials on terms they can afford, over time, with no interest charged or profit made. Their payments go to help others in their community get the same hand-up, and in the process they become givers themselves.

But we have a multitude of partners beyond homeowners. Because we do not accept government funds (and the strings attached) for building, we rely on the generous partnership of our donors. We partner with skilled and unskilled-but-willing volunteers to build and repair homes, thus keeping the costs as manageable as possible. We partner with like-minded organizations such as People Helping People in El Salvador and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in Texas. The local groups who do our work in the field in the United States and abroad are not called affiliates or chapters but are referred to as covenant partners. We do not dictate to them how to do their work. We see ourselves as partners with the same mission — to help families in need have simple, decent places to live.

Perhaps our most important partnership is with the church. The Fuller Center is not a church but is a servant of the church. We provide a vehicle for churches to put faith into action in a real, tangible, difference-making way. Churches also host teams of Fuller Center volunteers, host our fundraising Bicycle Adventure cyclists across the nation, send team on U.S. and Global Builders trips and often help feed our volunteers. We appreciate every way churches partner with us.

Church attendance and affiliation has been steadily declining in the United States for decades. We could debate ad infinitum the reasons for the decline. But at The Fuller Center we have seen time and time again a church become enthused and reinvigorated after tackling a Fuller Center project. Maybe it’s because Jesus was a carpenter, but there’s just something about swinging a hammer and pounding a nail that drives home the importance of loving thy neighbor. At the end of the day, you can look at the structure and enjoy the feeling of a job well done. More importantly, you can look on the faces of people to whom you’ve extended God’s love. That feeling is hard to beat, and it’s something you want to experience time and time again.

We are always seeking new partners who want to express God’s love by helping families have simple, decent places to live. If you want to know more about how you can partner with The Fuller Center for Housing, be sure to email us or call 229-924-2900.

2017 Legacy Build Day 5: Heavy rain cuts final day short, but so much accomplished

2017 Legacy Build Day 5: Heavy rain cuts final day short, but so much accomplished

While heavy rains may have called an abrupt, muddy halt to Friday’s final day of work at the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in the Tuxedo Park area of east Indianapolis, volunteers already had made great progress not just in building five new houses but also in lifting the spirits of an entire neighborhood that had felt its best days were behind it and its worst days were at hand.

No more. Tuxedo Park is on its way back up, and the volunteers and supporters of The Fuller Center for Housing and The Fuller Center for Housing of Central Indiana are to thank.

Click here to download high-resolution photos from the 2017 Legacy Build.

View WTHR-TV’s report from the final day of the build.

President David Snell talks about the success of the 2017 Legacy Build:


Legacy Build Day 3: Bear, Raptor quite welcome on work sites in Indianapolis

Legacy Build Day 3: Bear, Raptor quite welcome on work sites in Indianapolis

(Photo: Mike Walda shows 16-year-old volunteer Sierra Courtright how easy it is to install siding with the help of the Bear Clips he invented and donated for this year’s Legacy Build.)

The terms “bear” and “raptor” are not things you typically think of as house friendly. But in these two cases, we are talking about different animals altogether — namely Bear Clips and Raptor Synthetic Underlayments.

Bear Clips, invented by Mike Walda, help workers and volunteers who install siding such as Hardie Board to keep it even and properly spaced throughout the entire process while making the installation easier and faster.

Raptor Underlayments, created by John Reese, are much lighter than the felt that once was the standard underlayment beneath shingles and are safer and easier to roll out as they come in swaths up to 10 feet wide.

The Fuller Center had the pleasure of welcoming both of these wonderful men — each of whom donated their particular materials for the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build — to work sites in Indianapolis this week. Each took a moment to speak with us about their work.


As the inventor, manufacturer and distributor of Bear Clips, Mike Walda is about as much of an expert as you can possibly find when it comes to using the clips to properly install fiber cement siding such as that being used on the five new homes at this year’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis. To that extent, he has been on site all week to show volunteers how easy Bear Clips are to use.

“Bear Clips are the easiest way to install fiber cement siding,” Walda said of the product he invented and donated to this year’s build. “They are injection-molded plastic clips, injection-molded within two-thousandths of an inch of an inch and a quarter.”

Because the clips are manufactured with such specificity and accuracy, they can be placed atop each plank to hold the next plank with a J-hook at exactly the correct level. After nailing each board, clips are added to make way for the next board — and so on throughout the process.

“We can side a house in one day with people who have never used Hardie before in their life,” Walda said. “It’s clip, board, nail, clip, board, nail, clip, board, nail … that’s all it is. … Because that clip is a perfect inch and a quarter within two-thousandths, if you start out level, every board after that is going to be level. It’s 60 percent faster than a standard Hardie Board installation.”

Walda became acquainted with The Fuller Center’s affordable housing ministry while working on a project with A.J. Jewell, who leads the Central Florida Fuller Center for Housing in the Orlando area. Jewell connected him with The Fuller Center’s Brenda Barton, whom Walda told he would like to be a part of this project.

“It’s all about helping people and giving back and making it easy,” he said.

In addition to manufacturing Bear Clips, he also makes Bear Skins, which is joint flashing that goes where two horizontal planks meet. Again, simplicity is the name of the game for Bear Skins, which he also donated to the build.

“That’s basically a 6-by-12-inch Post It note,” he said in explaining its simplicity with a laugh. “I always said if you give the laziest man the job, he’ll find the easiest way to do it, and that’s me.”

Check out this gallery of Bear Clips in action at the Legacy Build:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



The motivation that led John Reese to create Raptor Synthetic Underlayment originally had nothing to do with making an easier-to-use product to go between wood decking and shingles. He was simply trying to keep people from falling off of roofs as they worked.

In fact, he was making safety videos for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in which he would test the safety of various underlayments by spraying them with water and then trying to walk on them — sometimes slipping. He said jokingly, “The first rule is that if you don’t want to fall, don’t slip.”

John Reese with Stacey Odom-Driggers, The Fuller Center’s Director of U.S. Covenant Partner Development

Easier said than done!

Halfway around the world, a man in India took notice of these videos when Reese said in one that synthetic underlayments might be safer but were too expensive.

“This guy showed up from India and said, ‘Why don’t you help me make an underlayment?'” Reese recalled. Reese said he would if they could come up with one they could walk on safely, could be installed with regular roofing nails and was about same price as felt. “After about eight tries and three trips from India, finally we came up with Raptor.”

Raptor rolls come in sizes up to 10 feet wide — much wider than typical felt rolls — and can be printed with almost any design their customers desire. For the Raptor Underlayment that Reese donated for use at the Legacy Build, he was happy to oblige the host Fuller Center of Central Indiana’s wish to have American flags printed upon them. It has many selling points, but for Reese the biggest selling point always has been safety.

“All I was trying to do was to make an underlayment that people could walk on,” he said, adding that Raptor is now sold across the country. “You can walk on it on an 8-12 pitch in the rain or a 10-12 in the rain. It has more traction — a lot of people have similar traction, and this is a good thing. But nobody should get on a roof with a slippery underlayment ever again. So it will save lives and keep people from getting hurt.”

His product is not only safer but it also speeds up the roofing process — not to mention that even his 10-foot-wide rolls weigh less than a single roll of felt.

“Within three minutes, you can put on 10 square,” said Reese, who also donated the coil nails recommended for installation in addition to the underlayment itself. “And it weighs 25 pounds for 10 square — that would be five rolls of 30-pound felt, and you know that’s heavy. The wider the roll, the less lap loss you have and the less waste. So it goes on faster and uses half the fasteners.”

View a short video of volunteers putting Raptor Underlayment on a roof at the Legacy Build:

Legacy Build Day 2: “So grateful to be a part of Millard’s legacy”

Legacy Build Day 2: “So grateful to be a part of Millard’s legacy”

Mark Bippes of Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, has long been a grateful man. But since battling cancer, gratitude permeates his life in everything that he does.

One thing Bippes has done for many years is help people have simple, decent places to live. It is an issue he became passionate about through his friendship with Millard Fuller — a friendship that dates back even before the Fullers launched Habitat for Humanity in 1976 and long before they founded The Fuller Center for Housing.

Bippes is especially grateful for the responsibility to serve as a house co-captain at this year’s Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis, where he is leading a build on Denney Street with a couple dozen volunteers, including a few regulars from his Morris Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

“Being here this week is extremely significant for me,” an emotional Bippes said Tuesday on the second day of the Legacy Build. “I was here seven years ago for the 2010 Legacy Build, and it was five and a half years ago that I came down with cancer and wasn’t able to do much of anything. I’ve been through an incredible amount. Just in the last year I’ve been able to get back out volunteering on site. This year I’m finally doing well enough that I decided to try something like this.”

Leading a house build — particularly during a one-week blitz — is an enormously stressful job but one that he relishes.

“I’m just trying to put my faith in Jesus into action,” he said. “I’ve been involved with Habitat since before the beginning, and my relationship with Millard Fuller is something that’s been extremely significant in my life. Having a Legacy Build is something that I am so grateful to be a part of. … The way Millard put faith into action, he was just so deeply committed.

“The bottom line is that we’re making a difference in the lives of the people who are going to be our homeowners,” added Bippes, whose homeowner partner is Paula White, a widow who will be living with her grandson. “I think that’s what really gives me the greatest amount of satisfaction and working along with the volunteers who are giving of their time and their resources and skills. Just being part of a team is so important.”

William and Margaret McKeller were married on May 27 of this year.


A couple hundred yards away on North Bradley Avenue, Margaret and William McKeller are feeling doubly blessed. They were just married on May 27, and soon they will have a decent place to live. They look at the rapid progress on their new home with a mix of gratitude and disbelief.

“It’s a blessing to see all these people volunteering, coming from all over the country,” William said. “And they’re not getting paid to do it. You can’t get a better blessing than that. It’s amazing.”

Both Margaret and William were born and raised and have lived their entire lives in Indianapolis. They currently live in apartment about two miles from the Legacy Build site. Their adult children worry about their ability to safely get in and out of the apartment due to the knee problems each suffers.

“We got married and now we’re going to own our own home,” Margaret said. “It’s such a blessing.”

Of course, they know a little about blessing others. Margaret works for Dove Recovery House, a women’s shelter that works helps women with dependency problems get clean and back as productive members of society, while William works at a food pantry and does prison ministry work with his pastor.

Al Harano is working on his first Fuller Center project.


One of those volunteers who has given time and resources to help the McKellers have a good home is Al Harano of San Jose, California. Amid all the chaos and fervor surrounding him during a blitz week, he has maintained an almost constant smile and ease on the house co-captained by husband-and-wife team Mary Lou Bowman and Russ Cubbin.

Harano began volunteering on Habitat projects after Hurricane Katrina, but this is his first Fuller Center build. His friend Steve Lumpp (a house co-captain across the street) encouraged him to register for this week’s Legacy Build.

“Since I’ve been around to a lot of different affiliates across the country, I’ve learned everybody’s got their own way of doing things so you just kinda go with the flow,” he said with almost stereotypical West Coast cool. “But all of the workers we have are all pretty good. And Mary Lou and Russ have been great.”

He also has been impressed with the youthful contingent of volunteers associated with Nazarene churches in town for a conference.

“The young church people here are really good and really enthusiastic,” he said. “They get stuff done, and you don’t have to keep watching them. So, it’s been a really good build.”



Indianapolis’ Fountain Square thriving seven years after 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build

Indianapolis’ Fountain Square thriving seven years after 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build

(Photo: Fuller Center of Central Indiana board member Ron Fisher holds a tuckered-out Kamar’e during a September 2011 build in Fountain Square. Kamar’e lives in one of the homes built during the 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build. The 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build returns to Indianapolis June 18-23.)

When The Fuller Center for Housing of Central Indiana agreed to host the 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build in Indianapolis, the new covenant partner had been around for just one year and built just one home. Hosting hundreds of volunteers to build seven new homes in a one-week blitz meant that the new covenant partner would gain instant visibility.

As Fuller Center of Central Indiana President Chuck Vogt recalled, there was just one problem with hosting such a major build: They could not find a place to put the homes.

“We needed some property,” he said. “We’d just about exhausted everything we could find looking for property in one neighborhood when all of the sudden we got a phone call from somebody who said there’s a street called St. Paul Street and it sits between Churchman Avenue and St. Peter. We figured that was a God sign.”

While the local group may have seen that as a God sign, many other people saw the area in the neighborhood known as Fountain Square as nothing less than godforsaken.

“City officials told us that St. Paul Street was the armpit of the city and that it had a bunch of boarded-up and dilapidated houses with drugs and prostitution and rodents,” Vogt said.

Chuck Vogt and then-Mayor Greg Ballard in Fountain Square, a year after the 2010 Legacy Build.

Vogt visited the site, along with Fuller Center for Housing President David Snell, and they found that everything the city told them was true — and then some.

“When I first saw St. Paul Street, it was a panorama of urban decay with derelict and vacant houses and weed-covered empty lots — a perfect place for The Fuller Center to get to work!” said Snell, who recognized opportunity where others saw hopelessness, just as founder and friend Millard Fuller had done in countless similar places across the United States and around the world.

“And get to work, we did!” Snell continued, noting that The Fuller Center also rehabbed 15 homes in the neighborhood that week. “The street was transformed. The first rehab we dedicated had been a crack house, but the new and restored homes drove out the bad element.”

“When I first saw St. Paul Street, it was a panorama of urban decay with derelict and vacant houses and weed-covered empty lots — a perfect place for The Fuller Center to get to work!” — Fuller Center President David Snell

During the week of June 18-23, The Fuller Center of Central Indiana will host the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build, looking to resurrect yet another Indianapolis neighborhood with a five-home, weeklong blitz. Volunteers from across the nation will build four homes on North Bradley Avenue and another on nearby Denny Street. The build will kick off an extensive effort to revitalize the entire area just east of downtown and a couple of miles from Fountain Square.
(Click here to volunteer or to learn more.)

“It’s exactly the same kind of neighborhood as Fountain Square,” Vogt said, setting the stage for a similar neighborhood rebirth.

Fuller Center President David Snell talks with a reporter in Fountain Square one year after the 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.


For too long, when residents stepped out of their Fountain Square homes, they heard the sounds of fighting and gunshots. Then came the sounds of hammers, saws and drills at the 2010 Legacy Build. Now, the neighborhood is filled with the sounds of laughter from children playing in front yards and along the sidewalks.

Tiffany Parker’s sons Kendrick and Kamar’e are among the children whose laughter has filled the neighborhood for the past seven years. Ages 12 and 10 respectively, they now have a 10-month-old brother, Tyrelle.

“The boys are doing great!” Parker said. “It’s pretty cool to have a house that you can call your own and can go back to. I’m the only one out of my five brothers and sisters to have a house.”

The homeowner partners from the 2010 Legacy Build and the 2011 Labor of Love Build are not just neighbors, Parker added.

The home dedication for Tiffany Parker and sons in 2010.

“We all look out for each other, and our kids play with each other,” she said. “We take turns cooking dinners for each other. We take family trips together and go places together.”

“Everything is great, and all these great kids are growing up,” said Manuel Martinez, whose son Manny was just 2 years old at the time of the 2010 build and is now in third grade. “The kids are always out playing games and playing tag. We are so thankful for all the volunteers who helped all of these families.”

For all that a decent home has done for Parker, Martinez and their sons, the more than two dozen homes built or repaired by The Fuller Center has done perhaps even more for the surrounding community.

“Since the build, I have seen a steady growth of renovation and new builds in the area,” said Jennie Gibson, whose husband Chip spends most of his time in a wheelchair. “It definitely seems like it kind of kick-started a renewal in the area. There are more people around, more kids in the neighborhood. It seems to be growing.”

Chip & Jennie Gibson

Though it has been seven years since the 2010 Millard Fuller Legacy Build, Gibson still gets choked up when she thinks about the volunteers who came to help build their St. Paul Street home.

“We’re just so thankful because we have been so blessed with the house,” she said. “When we built the house, my husband could still walk. Within months after we moved in, he started deteriorating and is not walking hardly at all anymore. The ramps on the house have been such a blessing. He’s been able to come and go in the wheelchair, and that’s been so helpful.”

Parker, who now works as a parent involvement educator at Charles W. Fairbanks Elementary School, also remains grateful.

“I still remember the house being built and when the walls went up — that was my favorite part as it began to look like a real house and I just remember crying,” she said. “I was just thinking about all those folks the other day because I have a collage of pictures of everybody who worked on our house.”

The Martinezes in 2010

Martinez is thrilled that more Indianapolis families and another neighborhood are about to get a hand-up through the 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build.

“We are so grateful, and I love The Fuller Center,” he said. “I’m always telling folks about it. I think it’s especially great that it provides an opportunity for people to volunteer to help each other. It’s a noble way to help, and it’s what America needs. I would encourage everyone to do it.”


Revisiting Fountain Square slideshow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Below: 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build announcement

VIDEO: January 2017 monthly update from Fuller Center for Housing headquarters

VIDEO: January 2017 monthly update from Fuller Center for Housing headquarters

For years, representatives from Fuller Center for Housing covenant partners from across the nation would unite on a monthly conference call to share success stories and learn about new opportunities and other programs directed from The Fuller Center’s headquarters in Americus, Georgia.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t invite the general public to join us on the call, but there was too much good information being shared to keep it to ourselves. So, in an effort to share these stories and further enhance the transparency of our nonprofit housing ministry (GuideStar Platinum rating for transparency), we have taken these monthly updates public thanks to Facebook Live. After each Live session, you’ll also be able to view them here at

Thank you for supporting The Fuller Center for Housing!

2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build returning to Indianapolis, site of 2010 build

2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build returning to Indianapolis, site of 2010 build

For the second time, the annual Millard Fuller Legacy Build will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, hosted by the highly productive, all-volunteer Fuller Center for Housing of Central Indiana, President David Snell announced today.

The timing of today’s announcement is especially fitting as January 3 is the birthday of The Fuller Center’s founder, Millard Fuller, who died unexpectedly in 2009. The annual build honors his legacy of helping families in need have simple, decent places to live through new home construction and repairs.

While details are still being finalized, the build dates have been set for June 11-16, 2017. Registration is not yet open, but it will soon be available on The Fuller Center’s website at

President Snell also noted that for those not able to make the Legacy Build in June, there will be a four-day flood recovery build — Higher Ground on the Bayou — April 24-27, 2017, in Hammond, Louisiana. Registration already is open at, along with links to Global Builders and U.S. Builders opportunities.


Below: 2017 Millard Fuller Legacy Build announcement and discussion