After 34 years of partnering with local homeowners and of inspiring well over a thousand out-of-town volunteers from all over the country and beyond, a Clarksdale mainstay full of stories of God’s blessing has now left Habitat for Humanity, International and become an affiliate of the Fuller Center for Housing ministry. The mission of the new Clarksdale Area Fuller Center for Housing ministry remains the same as it has since the Habitat ministry began in 1986— extending a hand-up, not a hand-out, to families in need of simple, decent and affordable places to live, and providing opportunities for volunteers—local as well as out-of-town—to participate in helping build this local expression of the Kingdom of Jesus .
Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, countercultural Christians who decided to take Jesus seriously when He promised His followers abundant life through serving God with their whole hearts and loving their neighbors as themselves. From its inception, HFH called Christians to take loving actions based on their faith in Jesus even as they enthusiastically welcomed everyone, regardless of faith commitments, who wanted to join them in their vision for partnering with the disadvantaged by “providing decent homes for God’s people in need,” as one of the early slogans put it. Over the succeeding decades, HFH has grown to become a significant international presence in the fight to provide affordable housing for all.
The Fuller Center for Housing — like Habitat, headquartered in Americus, Georgia — was founded in 2005 by Millard and Linda Fuller, the same couple who had established Habitat for Humanity almost 30 years earlier. The Fullers founded their second nonprofit as a re-commitment to the grass-roots, Christian principles with which they had launched their affordable housing movement in the early 1970s.
A 1996 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Millard passed away in 2009, but Linda remains active in the ministry. Millard was succeeded as president by long-time friend and colleague, David Snell, who continues to lead the international organization today. The Fuller Center for Housing has been given a 100% score for accountability and transparency by Charity Navigator and has received GuideStar’s highest-level Platinum rating for transparency.
The Fuller Center for Housing builds and repairs homes in more than 70 U.S. communities and more than 20 countries around the world. Homeowners are full partners in the building process — contributing sweat equity as they work alongside volunteers and then repaying the costs of materials on terms they can afford, with no interest charged or profit made. Those repayments stay in the local community to help others get the same hand-up.
George “Bunky” Butler, president of the board of CAFHC and member of the Clarksdale United Methodist Church, said that a primary reason for joining The Fuller Center is the international headquarters’ guiding principles that place emphasis on local decision-making rather than a top-down, bureaucratic approach.
According to Vice President Bobbie Butler (no relation to Bunky) from King’s Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Clarksdale, “The Fuller Center believes that local leaders are in the best position to decide what our community needs and the most effective ways to address those needs. They provide assistance and expertise while we promise to adhere to the simple, grass-roots, Christian principles that guide the work. Locally, our work will not appear any different, but we believe this transition will allow us to be more productive and maximize the generosity of our supporters.”
Clarksdale Area Fuller Center for Housing was one of four small Habitat affiliates in Coahoma County (the others being Coahoma, Farrell-Sherard, and Jonestown) located in the famed Mississippi Delta in the northwest corner of the state. Though the land here is as fertile as any in the world, the Delta has long been identified as and continues to be one of the poorest areas in America. Because of these material deficits, CAFCH and the other Habitat affiliates have long welcomed and depended on volunteers from all over the world, providing in the process homes for the materially disadvantaged and inspiration for the spiritually lost. At the same time, the affiliates of Coahoma County have proven to be an effective avenue for indigenous leadership to emerge and blossom, with local leaders like Dorothy Jenkins, Washington Jones, Juanita Burnett and Ben Williams providing guidance and inspiration for the many volunteers who have marveled at and been inspired by their gifts, talents, and love. The result has been a unique combination of local participation, outside volunteer devotion, and the creation of diverse communities that challenge and occasionally transcend the usual barriers of race and class. As of 2018, these affiliates have built well over 100 homes in Coahoma County and its operations have benefitted both the organization at large and the local community through social justice programs that have sprung out of their shared experiences. As of 2020, over 350,000 students have now participated in HFH’s renowned Collegiate Challenge Program, sending college volunteers all over the world on their Spring Breaks, which was pioneered here in tiny Coahoma. And in Coahoma County itself, Habitat veterans have relocated here to found innovative, dedicated, and nationally-renowned afterschool programs like Spring Initiative, Griot Arts, and, now, the Clarksdale Area Fuller Center for Housing.