Habitat for Humanity International
The only child of an Alabama sharecropper, Millard Fuller worked odd jobs to put himself through college and law school. As a young lawyer in Montgomery, Alabama, and as part owner of a successful marketing firm, Fuller worked long hours and earned large profits. By 1964 Fuller was a millionaire at age twenty-nine, but his work had taken a toll on his health and marriage. Recognizing that wealth had not brought them happiness, the Fullers resolved to sell their possessions and lead lives of Christian service.
In September 1976 the Fullers hosted a brainstorming retreat at Koinonia to discuss how best to fulfill Jordan's vision. Habitat for Humanity was created as a result. Like the Fund for Humanity before it, Habitat would rely on what Fuller called "biblical economics": no-interest loans and no profit, with volunteers working alongside homeowners. As Fuller later recalled in his memoir Love in the Mortar Joints (1980), the next eight years proved to be difficult but productive. During that time the organization achieved institutional and financial stability while undertaking housing projects in San Antonio, Texas; Johns Island, South Carolina; Appalachia; and southwest Georgia.
President Carter Lends a Hand
Carter agreed to serve on the organization's board, lend his celebrity to fund-raising efforts, and work on a construction crew. In September of that year Carter led a work crew to Manhattan to renovate a six-story tenement with the help of nineteen local families. As Fuller had hoped, the event received national media attention and helped raise Habitat's profile as an international philanthropic organization.
Since his first hands-on experience with Habitat in 1984, Carter has devoted a week out of each year to serve on work crews in this country and abroad. Other public officials and political candidates have followed suit, raising the organization's visibility and enhancing its resources.
In January 2005 Habitat's board of directors dismissed Fuller in the wake of unresolved disputes. Later that year he and his wife founded a new organization, the Fuller Center for Housing. After Fuller's departure, Jonathan Reckford assumed the position of executive director.
In the fall of 2005 Habitat was involved in rebuilding efforts on the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. The organization's administrative headquarters moved to Atlanta in 2006, while its operational headquarters remained in Americus. In 2006 the organization included more than 2,000 active affiliates in 100 countries and by 2008 had built more than 250,000 houses throughout the world, providing affordable and safe housing to more than 1 million people in more than 3,000 communities.
Jerome P. Baggett, Habitat for Humanity: Building Private Homes, Building Public Religion (Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press, 2001).
Millard Fuller, A Simple, Decent Place to Live: The Building Realization of Habitat for Humanity ([Dallas, Tex.]: Word, 1995).
Millard Fuller, The Theology of the Hammer (Macon, Ga.: Smyth and Helwys, 1994).
Millard Fuller and Diane Scott, Love in the Mortar Joints: The Story of Habitat for Humanity (Chicago, Ill.: Association Press, 1980).
Frye Gaillard, If I Were a Carpenter: Twenty Years of Habitat for Humanity (Winston-Salem, N.C.: J. F. Blair, 1996).
Edward A. Hatfield, New Georgia Encyclopedia
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.