In 1965 Fuller had an epiphany that led to reconciliation with his wife and a renewal of his Christian faith. With his marketing background, Fuller knew talk was cheap, but actions spoke volumes, so he and Linda sold all of their earthly possessions, gave their money to the poor and moved to Americus, Georgia, to join a small interracial Christian community they had read about where people were pioneering practical ways to apply Christs teachings.
As divine providence would have it, one of the main projects Fuller was assigned to was a ministry in affordable housing. It was here that Fuller first conceived the concept for Habitat for Humanity International. But it wasnt until 1976, after Fuller and his family returned from a three-year home building mission in Zaire, Africa, that Habitat for Humanity was officially born.
Today, 28 years later, Habitat for Humanity International has a presence in 89 countries around the world and boasts affiliate groups in all 50 states. To date, Habitat has built more that 150,000 houses world wide, providing more than 750,000 people with safe, decent, affordable shelter. Millard and Linda Fuller are still at the helm of the organization, which only seems to gather strength as time goes by.
Habitat for Humanity in the Grand Traverse Region was started in 1986 by a group of concerned citizens. Today the organization covers a three county region Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Kalkaska and operates with a lean staff of two paid employees.
But we have hundreds of volunteers, stresses Robin Grubbs, executive director of the local affiliate. In fact, one of our most honored volunteers is Ward Kuhn, who helped start the group 18 years ago.
HOW HABITAT WORKS
Habitats mission is simple: eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world and make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.
Through fundraising, donations of materials and volunteer labor, Habitat builds homes for low cost. These homes are then sold to needy families for no profit, financed with affordable no-interest loans. The homeowners monthly mortgage payments are then used to build still more Habitat houses.
One of the major things that sets Habitat for Humanity apart from other charitable organizations or government programs, is that the family that has been selected to purchase the home must commit to hundreds of hours of volunteer labor to not only build their home, but the homes of other families in the Habitat program. This is called partnering and is the key to the success of Habitat for Humanity as founder Fuller noted in Africa, that when families had a hand in building their own home, it increased pride of ownership and fostered the development of many positive relationships.
Habitat for humanity is designed to be a hand-up, not a hand-out, Grubbs says, whose words are backed up with an amazingly low loan default rate. In 18 years they have only experienced one foreclosure.
Since we are a Christian ministry, we can work with families if a crisis should arise and help guide them through life changes, Grubbs says. Yes, we are a mortgage company, but we have fantastic relationships with our families who often stop in to say hello and tell us about their kids graduating or that their dog died. We have a trust and friendship. Not many mortgage companies can say that.
Two of the biggest obstacles Habitat Grand Traverse must contend with, are the shortage of affordable lots and prejudice.
To anyone who has recently considered building a new home in Traverse City or Leelanau County, it is no surprise that Habitat struggles. Land is expensive. Very expensive. In fact, of the 55 homes Habitat Grand Traverse has built, only two are in the city limits. A sad fact, says Grubbs, because the overwhelming majority of her partner families work in Traverse City and transportation is always a challenge.
The other battle is that of social prejudice. Grubbs says the minute a neighborhood hears that a Habitat house is going up, there is sometimes resistance, but once neighbors learn more about how habitat operates, things calm down.
Habitat families are chosen through a strenuous three-part selection process, based on their level of need, their willingness to become partners in the program and their ability to repay the loan. Once selected the families are then required to attend a multitude of educational classes covering topics such as home maintenance, home repair, plumbing, good neighboring, finance, budgeting, predatory lending, and homeowners insurance.
Grubbs says that time after time, she finds Habitat homes bring the neighborhood together.
Habitat families are exactly the kind of people you would want for neighbors. They are friendly, hard working and honest. Yet there is this stigma that comes with putting a Habitat home in a neighborhood, Grubbs says.
Some Habitat for Humanity Grand Traverse Region Statistics:
Average down payment:
$365 to cover the first years insurance
Average monthly mortgage payment:
$365 to $375 to cover taxes, insurance and maintenance account
Average cost of a 3-bedroom/1-bath home: $62,000
(photo -- please find flower scene): You can support Habitat Grand Traverse by attending its fundraising Home and Garden Show, April 9-11 at the Civic Center in Traverse City.
Home & Garden Show gives Habitat a boost
Habitat for Humanity Grand Traverse receives money from local churches, area businesses, gifts from individuals, and a variety of state and federal grants. Their most valuable resource, however, are the hundreds of volunteers who show up to build the houses.
Millard calls this the theology of the hammer meaning anyone can come together and use a hammer to build a home and change a life, Grubbs says.
Habitat Grand Traverse plans to build six homes in the coming year, one of which will hopefully be a blitz build in Leelanau County. A blitz build is where a home is completed in just five days.
Habitat Grand Traverses biggest annual fundraising event is the Home and Garden Show, scheduled for April 9 to 11 at the Civic Center in Traverse City.
Over 50 exhibitors are involved with vendors selling everything from yard art to gardening seeds to landscaping supplies and cut flowers.
Basically anything to do with yards and gardens, Grubbs says. And there will also be educational seminars every half hour, covering various topics such as growing roses or sprinkler systems or composting.
Hours of the show are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Cost for adults is $6 per day or $8 or a weekend pass. Children 6 to 12 years of age cost $4 with those 5 and under free.
We generally net enough from this show to build one home, so it means a lot to us, Grubbs says. Plus, it is a fun show that gets everyone in the mood for spring and summer.
If interested in making a donation or volunteering to build homes contact Habitat for Humanity Grand Traverse at 941-4663 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.