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The founder of Habitat for Humanity International was in Springfield this month to dedicate a new home. KSMU's Jeremy Elwood has the story.
Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 by Georgia millionaire Millard Fuller and his wife Linda. The program has grown from its humble beginnings in rural Georgia to become an international organization with groups in all 50 states and 92 countries worldwide. Fuller visited Springfield earlier this month to dedicate a new Habitat house. He says the organization, originally called Partnership Housing, grew quickly, but he and his wife wanted to do more. They took the idea to Africa and served in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After three years of building houses there, they returned to Georgia in 1976 and started Habitat for Humanity, an interdenominational Christian housing ministry.
Habitat for Humanity was unique in that it required the potential homeowner to participate in the building of their home, investing so-called "sweat equity" instead of a down payment. The mortgage on the home is then given to the homeowner at zero percent interest.
Though he had big plans for the organization, Fuller says it has grown well beyond his expectations. He expected the organization to spread through the rural South and in third world countries, but he never thought he would be building in places like the Midwest. He also never thought the group would be building in New Zealand, Canada, London, Northern Ireland and in more than 20 countries in Europe.
Fuller's visit to Springfield coincided with the dedication of a new "youth build" house on Scott Street. His visit included two public addresses: one on Wednesday night and another Thursday morning on the campus of Evangel University.
Michael Palmer is a professor at Evangel and works with the local habitat affiliate. He says Fuller's visit can make a big impact locally, because it can help the university challenge students to be more open to helping other people, and it can help galvanize the efforts of the local Habitat affiliate.
For more information on the Habitat for Humanity program, call the Springfield branch at 831-3841.