Lawsuit, relocating workers in Habitat's future -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lawsuit, relocating workers in Habitat's future

Montezuma- With every truss she puts her hands on, Tamra Banks is helping a new homeowner help herself.

Banks is an Americorp volunteer who has been working with New Horizons, Habitat's affiliate in Americus, for nearly two years.

"If you give people the chance to improve their current status, they'll take it and they'll run with it," Banks said.

That's the part of Habitat's mission that inspires her most. Most every volunteer on a Habitat build site in Montezuma recently, knows the mission began in the hands of Millard Fuller.

"Habitat is so much bigger than the Fullers now," Banks said. "And it's sad what happened."

What's happening now is that the Fullers are putting a fresh coat of paint on a lifetime mission.

"When we exhausted all of our efforts for reconciliation, we thought, well, that door's closed so let's open another one," said Linda Fuller while working inside the soon to be headquarters for Building Habitat.

Stroke by stroke, they're working to open Building Habitat, to raise money for Habitat affiliates and other groups working to get rid of sub-standard housing.

"So we will work with all of these people that did not fire us and that's just about everybody," Millard Fuller said. "It has been absolutely heartwarming, thrilling to see how many people have come forward by the scores to offer help."

Like the Atlanta friend who bought them the building and others who have promised millions to the mission.

"People know and trust us," Fuller said. "That whatever resources we are given, that we make good use of them."

As the they work their way down a new road, Habitat International wraps its hands around change, starting with a new logo and a new leader.

"But we think it will be detrimental to Habitat for Humanity International to have another organization raising funds and using the Habitat name," said Paul Leonard, the current CEO of Habitat.

Leonard is the CEO for two years, while a search committee begins looking for a permanent leader. The committee begins interviewing candidates in June.

"They want someone who has a track record of being able to manage change in an organization," Leonard said.

Someone who can continue to inspire these kinds of devoted volunteers around the world, while also leading the fundraising effort the way Fuller did.

"So yes, Mr. Fuller is a good fundraiser, but he's not the only fundraiser there is and not the only one that Habitat has."

As an international organization, Habitat continues to change and evolve. But so do its needs. Those needs can't always be met from downtown Americus. International is moving the financial office to Newnan because they're having trouble recruiting qualified workers. He can't promise Habitat International will always be in Americus.

"I'm not going to say that," Leonard said. "I don't know what always means. I think there will always be a presence in Americus. It's been very difficult to find that talent and bring it to Americus."

Right now, Leonard says there aren't plans to move other departments, but the organization is going through strategic planning.

"So I suspect all of our locations here and around the world will be looked at or 'Are we in the right place for the mission and the ministry that we have.'"

With affiliates in 100 countries, it's a ministry that both sides of this story know is life changing. "And it is the kind of ministry that this world needs today if it ever wants to live in peace," Leonard said.

A ministry the Fullers know they've impacted with almost 200,000 homes.

"But on the other hand, I look at the statistics. I look around with my own eyes, in this area in South Georgia, where people are still languishing in miserable conditions."

They're a long way from leaving it behind.

"I want to continue to make a contribution, so more little boys and more little girls and their mothers and fathers will have a good place to come home to at night."

"Because it's a tremendous need that's going to take a lot of people, a lot of organizations in order to eliminate poverty housing in the world," said Linda Fuller.

A billion people worldwide live in substandard housing, a fact that pounds in the minds of Habitat volunteers, many of whom were sad to see the Fullers go.

"At the same time, we still have a mission to do and regardless of who is running Habitat, we're still here trying to eliminate poverty housing," Banks said.

Working to give people a doorway to a new way of life.

"That's one of the more pleasurable experiences here at Habitat, is seeing the day when the homeowner moves in," said Americorp volunteer Rey Abutim.

Only after volunteers like Banks and Abutim put their hearts and hands to work, helping people help themselves, one truss at a time.

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