It was a “Fuller Spring Break” for these college kids.
Rather than a week at the beach, students from Georgia Southwestern State University spent their spring break refurbishing a Fuller Center house in Clarksdale.
The students painted, repaired and spruced up the little maroon house on Wildcat Drive over a seven day span and went back to Georgia having done something more fullfiling and substantial than spend time at the beach.
Fuller Center for Housing is a nonprofit affordable housing ministry that is a spinoff of Habitat for Humanity. While Habitat gets more headlines with its massive building projects around the world, the Fuller Center is geared toward solving the housing problem for the poor in rural areas like Clarksdale.
“I wanted to get more out of Spring Break than a tan,” said Bailey Christian, 19, and a sophomore nursing major at Georgia Southwestern. “We did a lot of hard work, I’m tired, but I feel good about the time I’ve spent in Clarksdale. This is a spring bream memory that will last.”
Christian said the goal is not to change the Delta but to help people directly by providing clean, safe, affordable housing.
“There is obviously a lot of need, but we’re focused on one family,” said Christian. “I do think we have made a difference in the life of the family that will get this house.”
The house is actually repossession from a family who could not pay the note.
As with all Fuller Houses, the person who lives there gets an interest free loan on the cost of a house that basically is built with volunteer labor. Materials to build the home are usually bought at rock-bottom prices.
“These houses are not free and the owner makes a house payment, insurance and is responsible for maintenance and upkeep,” said Stacy Driggers, spokesman for Fuller Center. “Homeownership and the lifestyle it promotes is at the heart of the Fuller Center’s ministry.”
Driggers said the Fuller Center carefully picks a qualified family, they explain the deal and require 500-hours of sweat equity or work by the homeowner on the house. The Fuller Center also stays with the family as they occupy the home and helps them with the planning and persistence it takes to be homeowner.
“Not all of them make to be a homeowner and the house reverts to us and we look for another occupant,” said Driggers. “Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity and the namesake of the Fuller Center once said ‘if we don’t serve people who can’t make a house note each month, then we are not trying to help the right people.”
Driggers said the Fuller Center’s goal is to give those who have never dreamed of being a homeowner a chance and some make it and some don’t.
Construction foreman Ben Williams, of Tallahatchie County, said the success stories that come out of Fuller house are endless. He said Clarksdale will soon build its 50th home.
“I’ve been working with Habitat and Fuller Center for 18 years,” said Williams. “They are well built and hold their value. But the key part are the families that they hold together.
“We don’t put people in these houses,” he explained. “We put families in them. Kids look back on a stable homelife and parents look back on the satisfaction of raising their children in a stable home.”
Bill Sutton, COO of Clarksdale Fuller Center said they are always looking for churches, organizations and people to get involved.
“Pounding nails is the fun part – and we do a lot of that,” said Sutton. “But we also need people who know insurance, banking, how to counsel people on owning a house and invest in the lives of people who live in a Fuller Center home.
“If you have a skill and a desire to make a big impact in the life of a Clarksdale family,” he said with a smile, “we have a place for you.”
Sutton urged churches, Sunday School classes and individuals to Email him at email@example.com or call (217) 377-5750.