Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Inspiring Interview with Millard Fuller, Habitat’s Founder

Millard Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity, was kicked out in a power struggle, and started another organization to continue the work.

In this powerful interview conducted by Cynthia Kersey, the best selling author of Unstoppable and Unstoppable Women, Fuller discusses his accomplishments and challenges and faith. He comes across as remarkably humble and extremely effective.

I’ve always believed that one person can always make a difference, but that difference is greatly magnified if that person finds others to work with. If you’re not convinced, you need to read this entire interview. If you are convinced, read it for inspiration.

Couple of excerpts:

We thought that the work of Habitat for Humanity would be exclusively in third world countries and in the rural south. And Habitat has grown in third world countries, it’s all over Africa, it’s all over Asia, it’s all over Central and South America. It’s all over the rural south, but Habitat today is in every province in Canada. It’s in a number of European countries. It’s in New Zealand, it’s in Australia.

It is in all of the places we expected it to be, plus a whole lot more. Incidentally, that goal that we wrote about in our minutes of our first meeting was achieved in August of 2005. We dedicated the 200,000th house for the 1,000,000th person in Knoxville, Tennessee in August of 2005.

CYNTHIA KERSEY: How many years is that? Twenty seven years?

MILLARD FULLER: We started in 1976, so just shy of 30 years. Currently, Habitat is building about 30,000 houses a year.

* * *

CYNTHIA KERSEY: How many communities took your challenge to eliminate poverty housing in that particular area? As a city wide, not so much just the affiliate, but the city said, “This is what we’re going to do.”

MILLARD FULLER: You mean accept the goal of trying to eliminate poverty housing?

CYNTHIA KERSEY: Yes, exactly.

MILLARD FULLER: That was done here in Americus, Georgia, where we live, with Habitat for Humanities headquarter and where now The Fuller Center for Housing is located. In 1992, I called together a community meeting in Americus; we have a community college here called Georgia Southwestern State University. I called together all of the leaders of this community and I said, “Let’s eliminate poverty housing in this town and in this county, because that’s what we advocate for the whole world, let’s just model it here locally.”

We created an organization called The Sumter County Initiative. We set a goal to end poverty housing by the year 2000. We got organized, we gridded the county. We knew what families lived in each little grid and we wrote all of that down and got a plan in place and systematically, grid by grid, we built every family a house that needed one in each grid, or in some cases renovated houses, or in other cases houses were too bad to be fixed up so they’d just be torn down.

On September 15th of the year 2000, I stood in front of the Thomas family house and we had a big sign out front that said, “Victory House.” I led 400 people singing an old southern gospel song, Victory in Jesus because that house symbolized our victory over substandard housing. We got rid of all of the slums, we got rid of all substandard housing, and we built 35 houses that week. In the last week, we put up the last 35 houses in five days.

CYNTHIA KERSEY: How did that impact the community?

MILLARD FULLER: It had a very, very positive impact, a huge impact. We saw crimes go down, children doing better in school, all of the indicators of what makes for a better community, improved. I might do a fast forward, Cynthia, and I think the people who are on this call would find this very interesting. In December of this past year, I went to the little town that I was raised up in, over in Alabama. It’s the little town of Lanett and Valley, Alabama, two small towns right on the Georgia border and in West Point, Georgia.

Those three towns, West Point, Georgia; Lanett and Valley, Alabama make up what is called the Chattahoochee Valley. Population wise, it’s about the same as here in Americus, Georgia. I was invited over there to meet with a group in December and I challenged them to do there what we did here. They accepted that challenge and they have now created the Chattahoochee Fuller Center Project. On March 16, we will kick off a 500 house build in my little hometown area.

Again, the article is at


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