The Fuller Center for Housing (FCH) is an international effort created by Millard and Linda Fuller. It began after Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, separated from that organization in 2005. George Pritchard has been named its chairman.
The Fuller Center’s mission statement notes that it is “unashamedly Christian.” Millard Fuller wrote extensively of his conviction that providing “a simple, decent place to live” is a way for Christians to live out their faith, and the Fuller Center, like its big brother, partners with many churches and parachurch organizations.
FCH also proclaims itself “enthusiastically ecumenical,” working not only across Christian denominational lines but with people of entirely different religions.
“For instance, last week we announced a new covenant partner in Senegal, which is 90-percent Muslim,” Johnson said. “In fact, the covenant partner there is Muslim.”
“We’re also politically ecumenical,” he added. “Our covenant partners are both conservative and liberal. We had a dinner with Jimmy Carter recently, and conservatives were getting their picture taken with him along with the liberals. Our gatherings are a refreshing oasis, really.”
The Fuller Center for Housing differs from Habitat in that its domestic emphasis is on repairing existing homes rather than building new ones.
“That’s 90 percent of what we do inside the United States,” said Chris Johnson, the Atlanta-based organization’s director of communications. In countries where existing shelter may consist of poorly built shacks, new builds of simple but substantial construction are more common.
FCH is also pursuing a new approach called “Save a House/Make a Home,” in which it will rehabilitate abandoned properties and sell them to low-income people at low cost, relieving lenders of the expense of upkeep, taxes and insurance while providing them a tax write-off.
“There are more than 18 million vacant homes in the United States. At the same time, nearly 6 million American families life in poverty housing, not counting those who are homeless or live with relatives or friends,” the Fuller Center’s website states. “The Save a House/Make a Home initiative is where the glut and the need meet in a way that benefits both financial institutions and families.”
Local chapter opens
Longtime Tupeloan George Pritchard is heading the newly formed covenant partner (the organization’s term for its local affiliate group) in Lee and Pontotoc counties. Introduced to the organization by a friend, he realized it combined a community need and a personal passion.
“Riding around in various areas you can see the wear and tear on homes,” said Pritchard, who spent most of his career in insurance and auto sales. “Generally (the homeowners) are senior citizens with fixed incomes, so they don’t have a lot of means to do what they need to. As a result, they’ll let their house run down.”
Pritchard said repairing existing homes makes sense for a variety of reasons, including enabling people to stay in familiar surroundings and making more efficient use of money, manpower and materials than new builds often require.
Rotted porches are one common problem, posing risk of injury to elderly or disabled homeowners and their family members or visitors. Timely repair or replacement of leaky roofs – another common concern – can mean the difference between a safe, comfortable house and one that mold and rot can quickly make uninhabitable.
The Lee-Pontotoc group already has five homeowners who’ve put in requests for help. Ruth Wilson, 93, of the Chesterville community will be one of the first served by the Fuller Center chapter.
“The roof has a leak, so there’s a need for new shingles,” said Wilson’s granddaughter, Stephanie Dixon. The family’s discovery of the home repair ministry was serendipitous.
“We knew (Pritchard) already, and we were discussing that she needed a roof,” Dixon said. “He signed her up.”
The Lee-Pontotoc group will host a getting-to-know-us gathering for the public on April 28, when three national officers of the Fuller Center will visit Pritchard and his board of directors. Pritchard hopes a mix of potential clients, volunteers and donors will attend.
“It’s about making people aware in this area what the Fuller Center for Housing is about,” he said.
Habitat for Humanity is noted for the no-interest mortgages its homeowners receive and the hundreds of hours of sweat equity they put into the project. The Fuller Center’s emphasis on repair and rehabilitation, however, seldom requires formal payment agreements.
“If it’s a rehab, a ‘Greater Blessing’ kind of project, we literally give them a Greater Blessing box. They put money in it as they can,” Johnson said.
Pritchard said while he’s stayed busy recruiting both clients and volunteers since signing on with the Fuller Center, he’s eager to get started the two together.
“We’re about mission, and part of our duty is to see after, aid, support mankind – those who are less fortunate, those who are in need,” he said. “If your roof is caving in or your windows are broken out, there’s a genuine need.
“This is part of the home mission,” Pritchard added. “We go to other countries and build houses, but we need some home mission as well.”
CALL GEORGE PRITCHARD at (662) 401-4320, write to P.O. Box 2204, Tupelo, MS 38803 or visit www.fullercenter.org.
The Fuller Center for Housing invites all interested people to its free informational meeting on April 28, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Holiday Inn Express in Tupelo.
We at the Fuller Center for Housing believe
We are part of a God movement, and movements
don’t just stop.
We have been called to this housing ministry;
we didn’t just stumble into it.
We are unashamedly Christian, and enthusiastically
We aren’t a church, but we are a servant of
We are faith driven, knowing that after we’ve
done all we can do the Lord will help finish
the job – something that requires us to
stretch beyond our rational reach.
We are a grassroots ministry, recognizing
that the real work happens on the ground
in communities around the world through
our covenant partners, so a large, overseeing
bureaucracy isn’t needed.
We try to follow the teachings of the Bible
and believe that it says that we shouldn’t
charge interest of the poor, so we don’t.
Government has a role in our work in helping
set the stage, but that we shouldn’t
look to it as a means to fund the building