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Founder of Habitat for Humanity dies

AMERICUS, Ga. (BP)–Millard Fuller, who with his wife Linda founded Habitat for Humanity International in 1976, died Feb. 3 following a brief illness. He was 74.

“Millard Fuller was a force of nature who turned a simple idea into an international organization that has helped more than 300,000 families move from deplorable housing into simple, decent homes they helped build and can afford to buy and live in,” Jonathan Reckford, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International, said. “The entire Habitat family mourns the loss of our founder, a true giant in the affordable housing movement. Our prayers are with the entire Fuller family.”

Fuller, born in rural Alabama, was a entrepreneurial millionaire by age 29. His attention to moneymaking, though, soon caused his marriage to falter. Millard and Linda decided to save their marriage by selling their possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor.

They went to live on a farm in southwest Georgia and on a mission trip to Zaire in 1973 built concrete houses to replace mud-and-thatch homes. Three years later, they returned to the United States and launched Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit ecumenical Christian housing ministry.

Tens of thousands of people have helped Habitat for Humanity build more than 300,000 houses in more than 100 countries, providing shelter to more than 1.5 million people. Habitat houses are sold to families at no profit and with affordable loans and no interest.

Fuller said his inspiration came from the Bible, starting with the mandate in Exodus 22:25 against charging interest to the poor, The New York Times said. The cost of Habitat houses varies from as little as $800 in some developing countries to an average of $60,000 in the United States.

In 1996, Fuller received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for his efforts at making homeownership a reality throughout the world.

In 2005, the Fullers parted ways with Habitat for Humanity and started a new organization called the Fuller Center for Housing, which is active in 24 states and 14 other countries.

“Millard Fuller’s drive and relentless commitment to affordable housing captured people’s imagination and changed lives around the world,” J. Ronald Terwilliger, chair of Habitat for Humanity’s international board of directors, said. “His inspiration lives on in Habitat’s work and through its employees, volunteers, partner families and supporters. We extend our sincere condolences to the Fuller family and are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.”

The Times reported that Fuller was to be buried during a simple public service on the farm in Georgia where his benevolence ministry began.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.

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