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Millard and Linda Fuller

by Karen Pritzker

Linda and Millard Fuller Co-Founders of Habitat for Humanity shown here working on carpentry detail.

The American recipe for success and happiness for a young couple is one educated, beautifully turned-out wife, combined with one super-successful businessman husband, two beautiful children and a great, big, beautifully decorated house. This is the American Dream. Millard and Linda Fuller, co-founders of Habitat for Humanity, the non-profit organization that has built over 65,000 houses for people who need them, had the two kids, the well-educated wife and the super-successful businessman husband. They even had the architect's plans to build their beautiful dream house. There was only one problem: the Fullers were miserable in their marriage. When a marriage is in trouble, some couples start having affairs, others get a divorce, and some couples start building a bigger house. For Millard and Linda Fuller, the answer wasn't building a bigger house, it was building houses for others.

Millard Fuller.

The Fullers are acclaimed for starting and running Habitat for Humanity, which now has over 2,000 chapters worldwide, and brings Christians, Jews, men and women, corporate people and blue-collar folk together to provide homes for families in need. While they have received recognition for their accomplishments through this organization, they also are truly heroic for the things they gave up, for their ability to throw out a recipe that was sour for them.

Recalls Linda Fuller, "After so many years of marriage, we had two kids and I had finished my college degree. I was really lonely because Millard was working every night. We had all the money and clothes we wanted, and were talking to an architect about building a huge house."

"After I finished my classes and had time to think, I realized I was lonely and miserable. I went to New York to see a pastor Millard and I had known. I stayed there for a few weeks."

Millard remembers about that time, "I wanted to make money, buy big cars, have a big house. My business was first. Everything else was second, my wife and our kids. I worked all day, came home had supper, and went back to work. My marriage suffered, our relationship suffered, while my business grew."

Linda Fuller.

"By the time Millard came to New York, it was like death walked in the door. He realized we were in crisis. I knew I wanted our marriage to work, but I didn't see how that could happen with him working all the time," says Linda.

Discouraged and confused, but still talking, the two went to see a movie ironically called "Never Too Late." Too distraught to sit through the movie, Linda and Millard walked the streets of New York and wound up sitting on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral. "We shared with each other how our marriage had gone wrong and we both wanted to make it right. On the taxi cab ride back to the hotel, we both felt like God was talking to us and that we should devote our lives to Christian work. The next morning we hailed a taxi and the driver said, 'Congratulations, you're riding in a brand new taxi no one has ridden in.' We felt it was a sign that we were on a brand-new adventure."

The Fullers sold everything they had and gave every dime away in their search for peace. However, the Fullers weren't content to simply give money away to a cause. Recalls Millard, "We wanted to make our lives count. We tried to figure out, 'what does God want us to do with our lives?"

An HFH volunteer enjoys masonry.

At first, Millard began working at a small African-American college, using his business sense to get money for the struggling school. Then, the Fullers went to live in a small Christian community called Koinonia Farm, located near Americus, Georgia, where people were looking for practical ways to apply Christ's teachings. While living in this community, the Fullers, along with other members of Koinonia Farm, began developing an idea for building low-income housing.

Recalls Millard, "While people had been building houses for thousands of years, and often with the help of neighbors, no one seemed to be building houses as an expression of God's love. It was too big for any one group. Jews, Christians or Muslims, we would welcome anyone, whoever wanted to participate."

"It was so wonderful to be on the same road," Linda recalls. "After we lived in the Christian Community, we wanted to try building homes in developing countries. We moved to Africa for three years and I had a home delivery there." Returning to Georgia, the Fullers lived in a poor community and observed their surroundings.

An HFH-built housing tract.

Habitat for Humanity was formally created in 1976. The Fullers' philospohy is simple: every person on this planet should have a simple and decent place to live. While volunteers from the community and from outside provide free labor and materials, the family who receives the house must put in 300 hours of work themselves. Their hard work is considered the down payment.

Habitat for Humanity is a presence all over the world. Their International Headquarters is in Americus, Georgia. The Fullers see Americus as their base of operations to help organize and support the many national and international chapters. Homes have been built in 79 countries, and in all of the USA's 50 states.

Today, the Fuller children are in the Habitat business, where friends and associates like Jimmy Carter work with them. Starting and growing Habitat is an achievement in and of itself, but figuring out how to save a marriage and create something so beautiful together is why I consider the Fullers to be my heroes.

Page created on 12/22/2005 9:05:21 AM

Last edited 1/5/2017 7:07:40 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Millard Fuller - A brief biography of the co-founder of Habitat for Humanity, with a link to a biography of his wife, Linda.
Habitat for Humanity International - The home page of Habitat for Humanity International.

Extra Info

While changes are taking place at Habitat for Humanity, the work and spirit of its dedicated staff and thousands of international volunteers passionately presses forward.

The Jimmy Carter Work Project 2007
will take place in Los Angeles, California.
From the Habitat for Humanity website:

In one special week this year, however, volunteers from all over the world” led by former President Jimmy Carter, his wife Rosalynn and Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford” will join Angelenos from Oct. 28 to Nov. 2 for the weeklong build. The annual gathering focuses the world's attention on the need for affordable housing worldwide. Called the Jimmy Carter Work Project, the international event has been an ongoing light raised against poverty housing by the Carters and Habitat for Humanity International since 1984.


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The Jimmy Carter Work Project 2006
took place in Lonavala, India
Indian celebrities, U.S. Navy sailors, and other volunteers joined the Carters to build 100 homes in five days.


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The Jimmy Carter Work Project 2005
took place in Detroit and Benton Harbor, Michigan.
More than 20,000 volunteers, including Jimmy Carter, came together to build 238 homes.


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The Jimmy Carter Work Project 2004 took place in Puebla and Veracruz, Mexico, bringing together 4,000 Mexican and international volunteers, including President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, to build
150 Habitat for Humanity homes in one week.

The houses were built with and for low-income families in the cities of Puebla and Veracruz. The families volunteered their time to build their homes and the homes of others.

MORE ON 2004 PROJECT:
The Jimmy Carter Work Project 2004 marked the 21st year the Carters have built Habitat for Humanity homes in partnership with families in need of simple, decent housing. Previous JCWPs have been held in New York City, the Philippines, Hungary, South Korea and South Africa.

"Habitat for Humanity is excited about the opportunity for Mexican families and volunteers from all across the world to personally benefit through participating in the Jimmy Carter Work Project," said Millard Fuller. "Habitat for Humanity Mexico has been very successful, building more than 13,000 homes since 1989, and positively affecting the lives of 65,000 Mexicans. We encourage people throughout Mexico, Latin America and the world to join us in making a difference for families in need."

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The American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity receive $1 million challenge grant to aid Florida hurricane victims. The Case Foundation grant encourages citizens nationwide to contribute to immediate and long-term assistance. -Sept. 15, 2004

The Case Foundation has issued a challenge grant of $1 million to help the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity International raise funds to assist victims of the hurricanes in Florida and other disasters. Each organization will receive $500,000 to be matched 1:2 by private donations with the goal of collectively raising $3 million in assistance for those affected by hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan.

Habitat for Humanity International will use funds raised by the challenge grant to help hard-hit Florida partner families pay insurance deductibles of up to $1,500. Money will also be used to repair homes damaged by hurricanes Charley and Frances and to build new homes for families who find themselves in need.

"We are pleased and profoundly grateful that The Case Foundation has once again expressed confidence in Habitat for Humanity by committing $500,000 as matching money to help with the recovery efforts in the wake of the hurricanes in Florida," says Millard Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity International. "Their generous grant will be multiplied by additional gifts to produce at least $1.5 million to rebuild the thousands of broken homes and fractured lives caused by the fierce wind and rain of the hurricanes."

To take advantage of this generous matching challenge grant and help the people affected by the recent hurricanes, donate to Habitat, by visiting www.habitat.org or calling 1-800-413-4868, and designating your gift for The Case Foundation matching grant.

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A new CEO took the helm at Habitat for Humanity International. Millard Fuller continues as founder/president. -Oct. 11, 2004-

Millard Fuller, who founded Habitat for Humanity International in 1976, will continue in the role of founder and president. He previously held the titles of president and CEO. Paul Leonard will become the new chief executive officer with responsibility for overall management of house-building ministry.

I have been privileged to serve as the CEO of Habitat for Humanity from the very beginning," said Fuller, and it has brought enormous joy to my life. Now as I approach my 70th birthday, it is time for a change. Continuing as founder/ president, I will remain very engaged in the ministry as a spokesperson and strategist, and will help in every other way I can to strengthen and expand the work of Habitat for Humanity throughout the United States and around the world.

In becoming managing director, Leonard a retired real estate and construction industry executive, onetime pastor and longtime Habitat for Humanity volunteer made a commitment of two years full-time service at Habitat's headquarters in Americus, Ga., to help the organization plan for the future as it approaches its 30th anniversary in 2006.

We are grateful that he is on board to help us through the transition from leadership by a gifted and visionary founder to the person who ultimately will lead us forward.

From Fuller's original vision of building homes with families in need of decent, affordable shelter, Habitat for Humanity now has built more than 175,000 houses and is at work in 100 countries around the world. The organization is on pace to build its 200,000th house, providing Habitat shelter for the one-millionth person in August of next year.

Millard's leadership has touched the hearts and mobilized the resources of corporations, foundations, community groups, individual donors and millions of volunteers to offer shelter and hope to thousands of families," said Ramsey. "He and his wife Linda have been integral to the vision of Habitat for Humanity, and we look forward to their continued service as Habitat ambassadors."

Millard decided to relinquish the position of CEO, and the board is accepting his decision," said Ramsey. "Our gratitude to him as founder of this organization is deep and lasting. We find ourselves now in a very positive position, having two capable leaders with complementary skills at the helm of the organization, Paul as CEO and Millard as founder president."

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