Our last official CAFCH report of news was 13 months ago—that’s what a pandemic will do to things. The groups that turned out to be our final volunteers for 2020 (one from Uni High in Urbana, IL and one including students and adults from St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Stillwater, MN) did yeofolks’ work in rehabbing the house on 8th Street and bringing the house on Edwards to near-completion. Their participation represents a pattern we hope to build on, post-COVID shutdown—continuing to carry out our mission with groups that have been coming to the Delta for literally decides now and welcoming new groups in hopes that they will become longstanding partners as well.
When last we posted on this site, we were still the housing ministry known as Clarksdale Area Habitat for Humanity. For anybody following our (mis)fortunes over the years, including the parent Habitat organization, it was no secret that we had been floundering as an affiliate. Despite the fact that, with a new board and a lot of generous contributions from supporters, we had made huge strides in rectifying many of our problems since 2018, we remained on probation. In addition, our small, financially strapped affiliate was finding it simply impossible to meet the new regulations, expectations and demands of HFHI. As we continued to struggle, we became aware of a new housing ministry, the Fuller Center for Housing, founded and organized by veteran Habitaters under the leadership of the original founders, Millard and Linda Fuller. As we began discussions with the Fuller Center, it began to become obvious to all concerned (HFHI, FCH, and our board in Clarksdale) that the Fuller Center might be a better fit for us. Since they were dedicated to the same goals of partnering with local folks and interested volunteers to live out the Gospel messages of Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25, and as they expressed their eagerness to partner with smaller but vital affiliates (like ours was becoming again), the transition seemed providential. So, in September 2020, we made the switch to become Clarksdale Area Fuller Center for Housing and it was a remarkably amicable collaborative process—no hard feelings and all happy to move forward.
As the new Clarksdale Area Fuller Center for Housing moved into 2021, we had, by the grace of God, which is NOT a cliché) found ourselves amazingly close to solvency, but somewhat burdened by the fact that we now possessed two abandoned Habitat houses and a new building, 95% completed but without a homeowner. Since the beginning of the year, however, the affiliate has made even more significant progress. In January, we sold one of the rehabbed houses (on 8th St.) to a local family recently burned out of their own home, very close to the 8th St. house, in a remarkable story, to be shared in a later post. Then, having finally identified a prospective homeowner for the new house on Edwards St., we were able to provide her and her family with the opportunity to meet their sweat equity requirement by working on the third house, on Choctaw, as we put the finishing touches on the house on Edwards. Our hope is to have the new homeowner, Shequita Carter, successfully moved in by the first of April.
While the rehab work was proceeding on the Choctaw house, we became aware of an opportunity for our new Fuller Center affiliate to branch out into another aspect of providing housing for families in need. One of our long-time allies, Spring Initiative, had found themselves in a situation where one of their families needed a short-term housing arrangement while a more permanent solution was being worked out. They asked if we could rent the Choctaw house to them on a strictly limited, short-term basis (6 months at the most) while we went through the process of establishing another new homeowner for it. While such an arrangement lay outside the parameters of our former ministry, our new Fuller Center affiliation permitted us to help meet local needs as we perceived them, and our board, after careful consideration, decided that such an arrangement fit exactly into our mission. So now, we have sold one (abandoned) house, are finalizing arrangements to move another family into a second (rehabbed) house on a short-term rental agreement, and are on the brink of moving a homeowner into a third (new) house. This seems like pretty remarkable progress during a pandemic shutdown, and we are so very grateful for all the input and support we have received during these developments.
Finally, Clarksdale Area Fuller Center for Housing finds itself actually solvent again and we thank God fervently for that accomplishment. In addition, in February, the legendary Farrell-Sherard affiliate seven miles from Clarksdale, under the leadership of the incomparable Dorothy Jenkins, has also joined the Fuller Center organization. Moreover, in mid-March, we will be hosting our first post-COVID volunteer work crew—students from Georgia Southwestern University and adults from the parent Fuller organization itself, both in Americus GA) to continue rehab work and to become better acquainted with the work here so that they can continue with their plans to make the Mississippi Delta a focal point of their ministry. All of that qualifies as answered prayer and major blessing!
Bill Sutton NEWS