By Spencer Frye, Executive Director for Athens Habitat for Humanity
One of the many hidden gems of The University of Georgia is the Richard B. Russell Building in Athens, home to the Special Collections Libraries which give researchers access to artifacts both useful and strange, from Cherokee newspapers and original writings by John Bartram to the only Lynryd Skynrd session tapes to survive that infamous plane crash.
Just this past spring we were there on a fine April afternoon with new homeowner Kim Arnold, UGA President Jere Morehead, Habitat International CEO Jonathan Reckford and a lawn full of friends and supporters, sipping iced tea and eating snacks and celebrating the donation of Habitat’s archives to the university.
But when Jonathan got up to speak, I could see the surprise at the first thing he said: “The two things ‘everyone knows’ about Habitat for Humanity… are wrong. Because everyone knows we were founded by Jimmy Carter and we give away houses. Well, we weren’t, and we don’t.”
Now that might surprise you, but in fact Habitat was founded in Americus, GA, by a group headed by Millard Fuller in 1976. The Carters began their annual week-long build in 1984, and the sight of a U.S. President swinging a hammer to build someone else a house was novel enough at the time to make President Carter the de facto face of Habitat around the world.
Millard and Linda Fuller’s mission was to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope. They had put their methods to the test overseas, and developed a sustainable non-profit model to minimize costs to the buyer, including a volunteer system in which buyers help to build their own and each other’s houses.
Over the years Habitat has been able to help in even more ways, such as building handicap ramps and renovating multi-family units, by developing innovative funding sources such as the ReStores, which collect and repurpose both used and surplus goods then roll the proceeds into new home projects. Quite literally, it’s communities building communities.
I know that many readers are already in the Habitat community, which comprises not just home buyers, but also volunteers, donors, builders, administrators, and more — and we love you all for everything you do.
But if you’re not yet familiar with Habitat, you can find out a lot more at Habitat.org, under the “About Us” tab. To discover what’s going on locally, see AthensHabitat.com.
Spencer Frye has been a business owner, non-profit director, and now state representative. Spencer has met and worked with folks from all over the community, and successfully balanced the interests of citizens, private enterprise, and government.