Millard Fuller was born in 1935 in Alabama. He obtained an Economics degree from Auburn in 1957 and a law degree from the University of Alabama in 1960. By the age of 29, Millard was a millionaire. He gave up his wealth to devote his life to religious service.
Fuller and his wife moved to an interracial farming community in Georgia. They lived on the Koinonia Farm for five years. The founder of the farm, Clarence Jordan, and the Fullers began to imagine how they could serve the housing needs of the poor. They believed that the poor didn’t need charity, but what they did need was funding to help them build their own homes.
They created a Fund for Humanity to provide the poor with a capital loan. The loan would provide the funds for building materials which would eventually be paid back with no interest. The home itself would be built by volunteers working with the future homeowner.
Later, Fuller moved his family to Zaire where he and his wife would serve as missionaries. While in Zaire, Fuller created a housing ministry similar to what he and Jordan did in Georgia. Land was given by the government to create 100 homes. When the housing ministry became sustainable, the Fullers returned to the U.S
With the successful experiences at Koinonia and in Zaire, Millard took the Fund for Humanity to a national level. The program took the name Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity got a tremendous boost from former President Jimmy Carter. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has helped over 29 million people build or upgrade their own homes. Its volunteer networks have also provided a personal sense of pride for those who help build/upgrade homes.
Having one’s own home has long been a stabilizing influence on American democracy. The fact that over 29 million people have benefitted from what the Millards and Clarence Jordan started has contributed so much to our democracy. Just as important was how they were able to provide access to capital and not rely upon charity. This was also critical to creating a sense of dignity in those they supported.
Just imagine the pride that Habitat for Humanity has created in home ownership in comparison to the squalor of the public housing provided through governmental funding. Just imagine the generosity of spirit instilled in those who volunteer for Habitat projects. Just imagine the inspiring impact of when a former President of the U.S. devoted much of his time to building homes for those with limited resources.
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“We’ve lived in a lot of houses, but this is going to be our home.” – David Olsen (A Habitat for Humanity homeowner)