December 3, 1998
Habitat for Humanity
Solving the World's
Low Income Housing Needs
20,000 Houses at a Time
by Larry H. Hendon
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library
Biography of Larry H. Hendon
Raised: Murray, KY,
Long Beach, U.S. Navy, Redlands
Education: High School Long Beach Wilson High
Bachelors degree study: Murray State College, UCLA,
University of Redlands
Masters degree: MBA, University of Southern California
Family: Wife, Mary Frances Walker Hendon
Children, Catherine, James, Barbara, Genny
U.S. Navy, retired as Lt. Comdr. (Reserve)
1940 - 1945
University of Redlands, Alumni Director,
Chief Business Officer 1948 - 1975
County of San Bernardino, Executive Officer
L.A.F.C., 1975 - 1985
Redlands "Man of the Year" 1963,
President Chamber of Commerce
President, Redlands Community Hospital,
United Way Allocations Committee.
Director, City of Redlands Diamond Jubilee.
U of R Honors, 1955, 1988.
Habitat for Humanity
by Larry H. Hendon
In this paper we have
traced "Habitat for Humanity" from its early beginnings in South Georgia and
Zaire to a full fledged International movement whose purpose is: Building simple, decent
houses for low income families all over the world.
Founders Clarence Jordan and Millard
Fuller began the program in the "Cooperative Living" center in Georgia in 1976
and it grew from there.
Today some 60,000 houses have been
constructed in the United States and 40,000 houses built overseas.
The goal of Habitat; to eliminate
substandard housing from the face of the earth, and provide every one who needs it a
simple decent place to live.
Solving The, World's Low Income Family Housing
Twenty Thousand Houses At A Time.
Non-profit organizations play a much
bigger role in society than is generally recognized. There are more than 1,140,000
nonprofit organizations in the United States alone. In his two volume history, Democracy
in America, Alex de Tocqueville, the noted French Historian, calls the non-profit
sector the most distinctive and critical feature of American life; this myriad of
privately financed, self governing non-profit organizations performs a variety of needed
services, including day care centers, housing assistance, clinics, hospitals, educational
institutions, civic action groups, museums, symphonies, and others. It compensates for
what economists call government and market place failures.
Non-profits take their place alongside
business and government to provide people with the goods and services they need. Like the
three Legs on a stool, all three sectors are necessary.
The business sector provides jobs. It
supplies the goods and services needed by a growing population. For example, it sees that
an assortment of fresh fruit is available on the nations fruit stands daily - a remarkable
achievement in itself.
The role of governments local,
state, and federal, is essential. One has only to look at nations with dysfunctional
governments to appreciate this fact. Governments are expected to make public policy and to
supply infrastructure and a safe environment in which people can be productive.
The role of the non-profit sector is less
understood but no less essential. In 1995, Americans contributed 143.g billion dollars to
various charitable causes. Eighty-eight percent of that was given by individuals.
All these sectors exist in most nations,
although the load is distributed somewhat differently in each country. In socialist
countries, the social welfare role is assumed largely by the government. Most European
nations, for example, devote more than 30% of their gross national product to social
welfare activities while in the United States the corresponding figure is less than 20 %.
Non-profits also benefit from substantial
contributions of time and labor. It is estimated that more than one hundred million
Americans volunteer an average of four hours per week to various charitable organizations.
This converts to an additional fifty two billion dollars in contributions.
Every non-profit organization seems to be
unique. Each has its own history and genetic mapping. At the same time, many organizations
have much in common. Whether young or old, small or large, religious or secular, they have
many parallels. They have similar needs. They belong to the same species, as it were.
Non-profit organizations are founded for a
purpose. They don't suddenly appear out of nowhere. Founders of organizations are unusual
people. They see an opportunity or a problem that needs to be corrected. They rally people
to the cause, and the circle expands. A new organization is formed; a new center of energy
This outline from Stoefz and
Rabers book, Doing Good Better, describes precisely how non-profit
organizations are formed.
The founders are unusual
people. They see an opportunity or a problem that needs to be corrected.
They rally people to the
cause. A new organization is formed.
A new center of energy is created
The emergence and sudden growth of Habitat for
Humanity International is one such development. Clarence Jordon, a
farmer/theologian, and Millard Fuller, a lawyer/entrepreneur, each developed a conviction
that shacks and other kinds of sub-standard housing are an abomination to God and
an embarrassment to a community. They devised a simple practical plan by which deserving
families can own their own houses.
This plan, once started, has mushroomed
beyond the founders wildest dreams.
Millard Fuller, the lawyer/entrepreneur,
is one of those unusual people who was born twenty one years old. He grew
up running and never stopped. He had the lemonade stand. He ran the concessions at high
school games and throughout his college and law school days he always had something going,
and he made money in all these activities.
Along the way he was married and very
shortly became a successful businessman and started his family.
In spite of all the financial success, his
home life started to have trouble.
He was never home with any free time for
his family. He didn't really know his children, and he and his wife drifted apart.
One day when he arrived home from work,
his wife had her bags and the children's bags packed, and they left their home and went to
live with a friend in New York.
Millard's first reaction was shock for
although he and his wife had discussed her unhappiness many times he still hadn't taken it
After all, they were millionaires. They
had a fancy house in a fancy part of town with a Lincoln in the driveway, a maid to clean
the house and take care of the children, two power boats, a cabin on the lake, a huge farm
stocked with cattle and horses, fishing lakes and a big bank account.
Wasn't this the American Dream? Wasn't
this the very essence of success, one of the ultimate fulfillments of life? When he asked
his wife about it, "No, she told him, No!".
Millard Fuller was devastated. He did not want his
marriage to fail. He loved his wife and children and he wanted to be reunited.
Sometime later he visited his wife. He had
sold his business interests. The family was reconciled and he and his wife planned
a future together.
The beginning months of his "new" life were difficult. He didn't quite know what to do with this new freedom
from the rush to make money, but then the United Church of Christ asked him to review the
church's missionary work in Africa, and the couple did that for two years.
Then his friend Clarence Jordan, who was
the founder of "Koinonia", a family cooperative farm in Georgia, called him and
asked him to join in a new housing plan called "Partnership Housing".
The first plan was a site of forty two
houses to be built for poor rural families throughout the area. Tenant farmers were being
displaced by farming mechanization and the displaced families had no place to live. The
plan was to build a "village" for these people and to provide each family with a
decent home. It was actually an extension of the Koinonia cooperative living project.
The plan worked well and for five years
they steadily built houses. During that time he and Jordan began to see the dramatic
difference decent housing made in peoples' lives. (Can you imagine what
it is like for a poor child, who has lived in a one room shack all of his life to sleep in
a good bed in a warm house? A house that has indoor plumbing. A house that is, by some
miracle, really his. How could one's life not be changed.)
But the Millard Fuller story is far from over.
During this five year building program,
the local leadership grew to be self sufficient enough to keep this project continuing and
the Fullers were offered a chance to test the housing concept in a radically different but
incredibly needy place in the African country called Zaire.
Zaire (now the Congo)
From his two year service in Zaire
earlier, Millard Fuller knew of the desperate housing needs in cities and villages all of
over Africa, so they soon began the "partnership housing" concept. Mr. Fuller
tells the story as follows:
"Zaire's cities were teeming with
miserable overcrowded settlements caused by the influx of villagers to the cities
following independence from Belgium in 1960. Decent housing for anyone but the well-to-do
was literally impossible to find. They certainly needed what we were offering if we could
make it work."
"What was it like? For three years
Linda and I wrestled with problems and discouragements ranging from thievery, ludicrous
bureaucracy, capricious arrests, and a perpetual shortage of funds and materials, but we
were blessed with a succession of great volunteers from the United States and Canada and
as soon as the local citizens saw we were serious, their enthusiasm knew no bounds.
From 1973 to 1976, we worked in the
capital city in the Equator Region, building simple, decent cement-block houses for people
who had been living in stick and mud shacks. The "new" houses were one story
structures - no electricity, no plumbing, (usually a water spigot outside the house),
cement slab floors, tin roof, several bedrooms, and a separate kitchen area outside to
keep the wood fire from smoking up the other rooms. But the new houses did not have
vermin infested thatched roofs nor mosquito breeding puddles on dirt floors, and their
walls did not disintegrate from constant storms which beat against them, and the new roofs
did not leak.
One local minister said that "years
ago when missionaries came they first built houses for themselves, next they built nice
houses for God, but they didn't help the people they served build houses." This
program helps fulfill that need.
Millard Fuller built more than houses in
Zaire. He created a concept which would work throughout the world.
Second, accumulate the materials.
Third, find the sponsors, the chosen
family, neighbors, and volunteers to build the house.
Finally, sell the house to the new
homeowner at a price he can afford to pay; over-a twenty year period with no interest.
Home ownership is the
key. 'We treasure and maintain the things we own and the house building program in Zaire
continues to this day.'
The Fullers returned to Georgia in 1976
excited about how "partnership housing" and community building had passed its
overseas test with flying colors. The idea worked in Georgia's "Koininoa" and it
worked in Zaire. Everyone needs a simple decent place to live, everyone.
Back Home -- The Beginning of Habitat for Humanity
At home again, the Fullers got right to
work. Soon they were hosting a group of 26 people from all over the United States
plus one from Zaire.
They were involved in a planning session
to form a new organization to continue this crazy new idea:
No profit, no interest, built by
volunteers along with the new homeowners - bought with a monthly payment they could
afford, no interest paid. That's the plan!
Habitat for Humanity was launched and
Habitat home building began. No one could have imagined how fast it would take off and
where it would go.
Daniel Burnham, Chicago Architect and
Planner once said: "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.
Make big plans; aim high in hope and work" and that's what Habitat for Humanity has
From a patch of shacks in South Georgia to
a South Dakota Indian Reservation -- from a ghetto on the West Side of Chicago, to the
sprawling housing areas south of Los Angeles -- from the high Andes of Peru to the war
torn streets of Northern Ireland.
This is a scene that's being repeated over and over around
the world. People were building houses for families who needed a decent place to live.
Movie stars, Junior league members,
sorority sisters, fraternity members, church groups, civic club members, professional
football players, girl scouts, nuns, college students, medical school students, lawyers,
retirees, all found they had one thing in common, they liked to build houses.
And because that's true, Habitat for
Humanity has built houses, lots of houses, and because of all that building, families that
have been forced by circumstances to live in garages, shacks and tenements are now living
in simple decent places and starting new lives.
Millard Fuller was amazed at how fast the
new housing concept was growing. The work had started in Georgia and Zaire and in seven
years had spread to Texas, Guatemala, Florida, Uganda, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
He estimates that before the end of the
decade, Habitat will be the number one home builder in the United States in terms of
numbers of houses built, and that may make Habitat the #1 home builder in the world.
At last count, over four hundred thousand
people in 1700 towns and cities and in 60 other countries, have volunteered literally
millions of hours to build houses.
In the United States, over 60,000 houses
have been completed, housing an estimated 250,000 people.
Now houses are going up at the rate of 60
per day. It took 15 years to build the first 10,000 houses. The next 10,000 took two
years, and the next 10,000 took 14 months and the pace keeps accelerating. By the year
2000, Habitat should hit a milestone of over 20,000 houses to be built in a single year.
So why are all these people doing all this?
Mr. Fuller answers as follows: "I've
never met a man who liked living in a house that leaked. I've never met a woman who liked
living in a house lacking enough insulation to keep her family warm. Nor have I ever met a
family who liked living in a house with holes in the floor, walls and ceilings - have you?
Owning ones own house has been called The American Dream, but it's bigger than
that, we are dealing with a truth which is universal in scope. Everyone who gets sleepy at
night should have a warm, dry and decent place to lay his head. Everyone needs a simple,
decent place to live, and providing it is elemental goodness, truth, and love in action.
What then is Habitat for Humanity's Goal?
The answer is simple and outrageous: "To eliminate poverty housing from the face of
Make no little plans --Habitat's big bold
idea stirs hearts in the best possible way:
To review again:
Local groups build houses with and for
Family selection committees review
applications from families who qualify as low income and
choose the most eligible.
Neither race nor religion is used as a
criterion in choosing the family. -:
Volunteers, working along side the
chosen family build the house.
The houses are sold with no profit added
and no interest charged at payments the family can afford.
The houses are financed from previous
families' monthly mortgage payments plus gifts from individuals, churches and
The whole concept is simple and it works.
Home ownership does wonderful things for
most people. One new owner said, "I can't wait to get home from work because I am
going to go home and be in my own house." These new
homeowners take care of their house and they take care of their yard.
The same thing happens with the children.
Their self image improves. They begin to do better in school because they have an adequate
place to study. They feel better about themselves. And they have fewer behavior problems!
What Habitat does is much more than just
sheltering people. It's what it does for people on the inside that adds
We have seen Habitat homeowners go back to
school and do all kinds of things they never believed they could
do. By their own initiative, through their own pride and hope, they change.
We are all connected. Who does not want
his community to flourish? As long as there are children and families living in
substandard housing, the community is diminished. A Habitat home can be the first step to
bringing those who have been left behind into the fullness of community life. The
community is always stronger for it.
Volunteers are the backbone of most
non-profit causes and this is true for Habitat for Humanity.
All volunteers are valuable, but some are
more valuable than others.
In Habitat for Humanity, our prize
volunteers and "showcase people" are Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.
The Carters, in Plains, Georgia, live
close to the Habitat beginning place in Americus, Georgia. They were interested in the
project as early as 1980 and became involved when friends volunteered for a two year
missionary tour of duty in Zaire for Habitat. The Carters asked them to visit the White
House before they left.
From then on the President gave regular
donations to the various building projects and visited the Habitat Board of Directors as a
Then when Rosalynn and Amy became involved
with the first Habitat "Walk" (a walk from Americus to Indianapolis - a distance
of 700 miles to celebrate a Habitat birthday.) Mr. Fuller hoped that the former President
might play a larger role.
As an aside, I have
always been an admirer of Jimmy Carter:
He was a four stripe Captain in the Navy
and the commander of a Submarine. In my role as a Naval Reserve Officer in the "big
war", we thought that Naval Aviators were pretty special, but Submariners topped them
Then from Navy Captain to Governor of
Georgia to the Presidency of the United States while all the while teaching Sunday School
was an achievement I admired.
Jimmy Carter wasn't a President renowned
for much of anything. My feeling is that he simply didn't have the know how or the
sophistication to deal with the Congress. But his life and activity since his tour in the
White House as a sort of Ambassador without portfolio and his work with Habitat for
Humanity has made his life one that millions admire.
My friend, Robert Pierpoint, former CBS
White House correspondent, feels that Jimmy Carter may well be the smartest of the
Presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan.
Former President Carter's involvement in
Habitat since 1984 speaks for itself.
The President was a talented carpenter and
soon he was putting those skills to work before the nation's eyes inspiring in the process
many more national figures to do the same.
Each year Jimmy Carter has given time for
what is called the Jimmy Carter Work Project.
His and Rosalynn's "hands on" involvement in housing projects creates annual excitement and media exposure that has
mushroomed Habitat volunteerism and fund raising efforts plus building some solid houses
and communities of hope and pride in the process.
The media loves the idea of a former
President spending his time building houses for and with people who need them.
Many other important and famous people
have contributed to the cause:
Bob Hope was one of the first celebrities
to come to a building site. On the afternoon before he was to give a benefit for Habitat,
he visited the site of the Jimmy Carter House Building Project in Charlotte, North
The local volunteers had a Habitat tee
shirt and hat ready for him as well as a nail apron and a hammer. He bent the first four
nails they gave him to hammer, but he showed his artistry at the evening benefit when
hundreds of people enjoyed his presence and wit.
Paul Newman is one of Habitat's most
generous partners. He came to Lexington, Kentucky in the summer of 1991 to be a part of a
fifteen house blitz build.
As he walked from one end of the 15 house
project to the other all the volunteers gathered to take pictures and talk with him.
One lady rushed forward to Mr. Newman and
said, "Would you please take off your sunglasses? I want to see your eyes."
Without missing a beat, Paul Newman said, "I'd like to, but if I take off my sunglasses my pants will fall down and we can't
have that, can we?"
In 1992, President Bill Clinton and his
family and Vice President Al Gore and his family worked on a habitat housing project in
Atlanta, and the President has supported the Habitat movement through the years.
Other people who have made a contribution
to Habitat are: Reba McEntire, Garrison Keillor, former President Ford, Newt Gingrich,
Jack Kemp, Jane Fonda, Amy Grant - plus many others and the list grows.
Of special interest at the local level is
the work of Congressman Jerry Lewis. Jerry sponsored a bill in the Congress which
challenged members to help build a house in every congressional district. He has helped
build two out in the High Desert and this summer he and Congressman Brown participated in
the building of a Redlands Habitat house in the 1700 block of Washington Street. It is
called The house that Congress helped to build" and hopefully will be completed by
Habitat for Humanity for the San Bernardino Area
The work of Habitat for Humanity in our
country and throughout the world is significant and important, but the real test of the
system is, is it working locally? It seems to be.
In 1992, a group of people gathered in San
Bernardino to start what is called a local Habitat Affiliate for the San Bernardino Area.
At first the going was slow and difficult.
A house was completed in San Bernardino in 1993 and another in Fontana in 1995.
People you might know who were involved in
its beginnings were Superior Court Judge Patrick Morris, his wife Sally and Bob and Marian
When Bob Wiens retired from Redlands
Federal Bank, the staff, knowing of his interest in Habitat, determined to build a Habitat
house in his honor - and this they did at 908 Calhoun in Redlands. This was the first
Redlands Habitat house.
Then a Loma Linda City Councilman got
interested and that city plus help from HUD and many volunteers helped us build a house on
Back in Redlands with a memorial gift from
our contractor John Becotte and financial help from the University of Redlands and the
city, a house was completed at the 1700 block on Clay Street.
Soon after, the Pacific Region Section of
the United Methodist Church, which meets in Redlands every year, asked if it could build a
Blitz house during a six day stay on the University of Redlands campus.
The Habitat Board approved it and they
did. The house was completed in 1997 and is located east of the University on Brockton.
It was at that time that Congressman Lewis
started his campaign to build houses for low income families and he approved and financed
one for Redlands.
That grant, with financial assistance from
the city, paid for the house now under construction on Washington Street.
The first Methodist Blitz house was so
successful that the conference approved another one in Redlands for this year. That house
was completed in October and is located on Judson Street near Lugonia.
We now have the possibility of a house
rehab in Colton and the City of Highland is providing the off-site improvements for three
Congressman Brown has promised funding for
a house that Congress helped build. The Methodists hope to build their third house next
spring. So we are moving.
The Family Selection Committee is doing a
good job. They interview the applicant families, and make recommendation to the Habitat
Board - no name or racial identification is known for any family recommended.
The Board chooses whom it feels is the
most deserving. So far we have chosen four families which are Mexican-American, one family
is Black, one White, and one Burmese (Myanmar) refugees. All have moved from an inadequate
housing situation to a new.home which they own. The mortgage is at a level they can afford
- and no interest is charged.
Other items of interest:
Is Habitat a Religious Movement?
The Habitat for Humanity effort is
Ecumenical. Its foundation is based on Jesus' teachings related to concern and
responsibility and love for ones neighbor. Unless you have this commitment you are not
likely to be interested in providing houses for low income families.
However, it has no religious
identification other than Christian, and no one is included or excluded on the basis of
religious affiliation, race or creed.
"No one" includes founders,
volunteers, donors, suppliers, new family member owners - and that is unusual considering
that both Millard Fuller and Jimmy Carter are conservative Southern Church members.
New Corporate Partnerships:
There is a secret about corporate America.
It is made up of people who live in houses, have families, go to churches and who know
that being in business means not only producing goods and services but also helping
neighbors - especially those of greatest need.
Many corporate leaders have discovered the thrill of
seeing their efforts result in houses being built for those who otherwise would not have a
decent place to live.
Some sponsor houses, others donate
materials, others help build a house when they open a new store, others make available
their corporate expertise to help in all kinds of projects (architects, heavy equipment
operators, building supervisors and the like.)
These corporate sponsors are both National and Local:
One is BellSouth Telecommunications. In
this situation BellSouth employees actually build the entire house. They have built
seventy to date.
Another corporate partner is "America's Favorite Chicken", owned by Frank Belatti. This company has set up a
program called "Dream Builders" and has pledged to build 200 Habitat houses with
possible expansion to Jamaica and other countries where they have stores.
Target Stores is committed to building a
Habitat house in every community where they build a new store. If the Majestic Mall goes
forward, they will build a house in Redlands.
Other corporations cooperating in some way
are: The Home Depot, Hunter Douglas, Dow Chemical, Kohler Plumbing, the National Fraternal
Congress, General Motors Acceptance Corporation, to name just a few.
Companies closer to home who are regular helpers are:
Karen Wilmot Mamoudi's Signs Now, Ornell Fire Sprinklers, Home Depot, Quality Alarm, Ron
Jeffreys' Tri City Acoustics, Hudco Inc., Milgard Windows, Redlands Door and Supplies,
Pine Ridge Truss, Inland Valley Plumbing, Skil-Bosch Tools, Benjamin Moore Paint, Diamond
Fence, Sun West Concrete, and others less involved than these.
All of these corporate partners are
increasingly significant in the growing success of Habitat for Humanity and will be even
more important in our nationwide and world wide work in the years ahead.
Changing Lives one family at a time:
In conclusion we need to emphasize again
the value of home ownership in changing lives. In many cases, a move from a shack to a
decent home, means a miraculous change.
One case in point is a ten year old from
Olympia, Washington. The family had lived their car, then moved to a very inadequate
rental house. When they were selected for their new home Charley was ecstatic.
In his previous school, Charley was in a
class for slow learners. When the new house was finished, Charley moved to a new fourth
grade at a new school. Several months passed and Charley had become a solid "B" student.
In a conference for teachers in the city,
the old and new teachers talked about Charley. It was evident that a decent house, along
with all the love that went in the Habitat building experience, literally liberated his
mind to learn.
A very heart warming letter was received
from Amy Brown in Sayre, Pennsylvania. She wrote:
"We are homeowners you have rescued
from poverty. We've been here thirteen months and we love it. I strongly believe in the
Habitat Mission. I am on our Family Selection Committee. I am also our affiliates
I've personally grown a lot through my
association with Habitat. I used to be very quiet and public speaking was unthinkable, but
our group is putting on a big country music benefit concert and I am the speaker.
I thank you from the bottom of my
Often a Habitat House changes attitudes,
brings people together and equips them for new and better opportunities in life.
New Habitat home owner Rosie Siverson of
Chicago wrote this about her new changes:
"Through building a Habitat house, I
now know how to put on a door knob, I can fix a hole in the wall and do lots of other
things around our house.
I am getting ready to return to school,
and my children now see life from a different view.
I thank God for Habitat, that great "eraser" that continues to erase the lines that separate black from white, rich
from poor, educated from uneducated, and one religion from another."
Here locally, the family in Loma Linda is
a couple with four children under ten. The father is totally disabled, the mother worked
at Sam's Hair Cuts from 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM.
She has gone back to school and next June
will complete the prerequisites for a County Social Service job - and she will be very
good in this new role.
Sixty thousand homes
completed in the USA.
Habitat centers in every
state, in more that 1400 towns and cities.
Habitat centers in 60
nations, in more that 700 locations. 40,000 houses completed.
Houses being built at
more than 60 a day and the rate is growing.
Daniel Burnham's advice
to Habitat for Humanity:
"Make no little plans: They have no
magic to stir men's blood.
Make big plans: Aim high in hope and work."
The leaders of the Habitat movement are
heeding this advice -and it's working.
This from new homeowner Joan Jackson of Florence, Alabama:
"The building of a house really takes
a lot. Planning and finding the most perfect spot. The hammers, the nails, the nuts, bolts
and screws, the wood, the land, to someone like us is the most wonderful news.
The love, the donations, and willingness
to share. Just knowing that people really do care. Habitat for Humanity puts an end to the
strife and gives people like us a whole new life."
Edgar Stoefz and Chester Raber: Doing Good Better
Millard Fuller: A Simple Decent Place To Live
Millard and Linda Fuller: The Excitement Is Building
Millard Fuller: The Theology Of The Hammer