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New ministry helps renovate, repair homes

POSTED: January 14, 2014 12:30 a.m.
Crystal Ledford/

Ed Davis takes measurements for steps at a recent home renovation organized by the Lanier Fuller Center for Housing.

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Chuck Ingraham is hoping for just four days in a row without rain.

“If I can just get that, we can get this project finished,” he said Wednesday afternoon as nearby a group of five volunteers was busy sizing and preparing wood for a new porch.

The crew is part of a group of about 40 veteran Habitat for Humanity volunteers who have come together to form a new housing ministry for the Forsyth area.

Ingraham, a former construction leader for Habitat, left that organization this summer. Not long after, he began a local chapter of the Fuller Housing Ministry, a spinoff organization started in 2005 by Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda, who co-founded Habitat in 1976.

Ingraham contacted several Forsyth residents who had been faithful Habitat volunteers and asked if they would be interested in helping get the new group off the ground.

“They were all just ecstatic about helping out,” Ingraham said. “So we were able to have a board in place and get the ball rolling to create the Lanier Fuller Center for Housing.”

Unlike its parent organization, the Fuller Center for Housing has no paid staff, Ingraham said, so 100 percent of donations are able to go directly into housing projects. The volunteers are the ministry’s lifeblood.

“These guys are like God’s angels,” he said. “They’re out here rain or shine, all out of the goodness of their hearts.”

The ministry also has a broader scope of projects volunteers can tackle. Where Habitat typically builds homes from the ground up for families in need, the Fuller Center takes on home-repair projects people may not be able to otherwise afford.

The local chapter is working on its first project off Gravitt Road. Volunteers began in early November on the project, which is for a single mother of two children who wished to remain anonymous.

“She lived here in a singlewide trailer when she was pregnant and had a 2-year-old,” Ingraham said. “There was a fire and the only things they got out with were their lives.”

The woman then moved to Dahlonega to live with her sister and had to give up her job. The father of the children had to leave his job due to liver failure and being placed on an organ transplant list, Ingraham said.

The business for which the father worked found someone to donate a used doublewide mobile home for the family, but it was in disrepair.

That’s where the Lanier Fuller Housing Center came in. Ingraham said the family first went to Habitat. Due to the scope of its work, the organization was unable to help. However, leaders referred them to Ingraham and the new ministry.

“That’s the beauty of these organizations,” Ingraham said. “Millard Fuller, before he passed, realized that we could help each other out.”

Lanier Fuller Center volunteers took on the task of renovating the mobile home to make it structurally secure.

They poured a foundation, stripped the exterior and interior walls and rebuilt them more similar to an actual house, and added permanent porches to the front and rear entrances.

The project will also include a new roof and finishing touches, such as painting and flooring, so the family will be able to move in immediately.

Unlike Habitat, which requires its homeowners to put “sweat equity” into the construction of their homes and repay an interest-free loan, Ingraham said the Fuller Center is focused on obligation-free giving.

“We don’t charge the people who we do our gifts for, instead Millard [Fuller] felt that the Bible says it’s better to give than to receive,” he said. “So we give them the greater blessing of being able to give back to someone else.

“Once the project is done, whatever the donation that we gave to them, we ask that they, in any way they can, they give that donation back.”

He said that could be as small of an amount as $5 or $10 a month.

“There’s no contract, no obligation, they just send in whatever amount they can and we then donate toward somebody else.”

While the Gravitt Road project is extensive, Ingraham said the ministry will take on smaller projects such as roof and floor repairs, painting, replacing broken windows, building wheelchair ramps or helping with erosion problems.

“My dream is to eventually have different crews of volunteers going out and completing three or four projects every day,” Ingraham said.

That would be just fine with the organization’s volunteers. Most of current group of 40 are retired or own their own businesses, so their schedules are more flexible. Those who do work full time come out to help on Saturdays.

As the organization expands its reach into the five counties around Lake Lanier, Ingraham said more volunteers will be welcomed, as will financial donations.

Annette Metz, one of the five volunteers who was working Wednesday at the Gravitt Road home, said she’s had a love of construction and helping others for many years. The ministry was a perfect fit for her after spending about six years as an active volunteer with Habitat.

Since housing is one of the most basic needs of people, she said, there is nothing quite like seeing someone move to a new or improved home.

“Oh my gosh, it’s always very touching because they’re so appreciative,” she said. “You know they’re going to be in a safe place when you’re done and we all deserve that.” 

 

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