VOLUNTEER PROFILE: 116 houses and counting — the Jabusches

Since they were inspired by Millard Fuller to put their considerable construction expertise to use in the affordable housing movement, Betty and Garvin Jabusch of Newcastle, Calif., have served on a house build or two.

Or 116.

“Ever since shortly after Garv’s retirement from teaching construction at a local community college in 1985, this work has been our passion, something we both are excited about,” said Betty, adding that the 116 number includes houses on which they worked a few hours or saw through completion. On many, Garvin served as a house or crew leader.

Being a leader on the construction site comes naturally for Garvin, the son of a shop teacher.

“I’ve been building all my life and have built two houses for myself,” he said. “I wanted to be a contractor and went to college and got a degree in construction engineering. It was too tough to become a construction guy at that time. I didn’t have enough money to get started, so I went into teaching. So I did both almost my whole life.”

Now in their 80s, the couple remain committed to building a better future as they have joined the Legacy Builders Circle — dedicated Fuller Center for Housing supporters who have made commitments to The Fuller Center in wills, trusts or other planned giving mechanisms.

They started by joining a local group to form a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in 1989 and had their busiest years building with it in the early- to mid-1990s. Of course, when you’ve worked on 116 houses, busy is a relative term. In 1995, Garvin joined a neighboring affiliate as a supervisor two days a week for the next seven years.

Their work has taken them outside of California many times. Their first international build was the Carter Work Project in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1990, and they’ve since worked in places such as Hungary, Romania and Guatemala, where they have made three separate trips.

Domestically, from 1991 to 2006, the Jabusches had an annual two-week stint as supervisors for Habitat’s Collegiate Challenge. For the past five years, they have spearheaded an energy-efficient building effort in Springhill, La., with The Fuller Center for Housing of Webster Parish. Energy-efficient building is their passion within a passion.

“The fact that the folks we are working with in Springhill, La., are so interested in learning how to build energy-efficient houses is so important to us,” Garvin said of one of the reasons the Jabusches have chosen to make their gift to The Fuller Center. “We want to name The Fuller Center in our will because it makes such a difference in people’s lives — both the person receiving the house and those who are working on it.”

As much as they have given through the years in volunteer hours and financial support and as much as they will continue to give for years to come, they insist they have already gotten far more in return.

“We are so very grateful to Millard and Linda for providing a vehicle for us to serve our God and to meet and become friends with so many wonderful people,” Betty said. “We have such a store of memories of all the wonderful people we’ve met. There’s nothing that can compare with it. … It’s been a wonderful life.”


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