By Crystal GoodpasterMillard and Linda Fuller had a dream in 1976 that would change the lives of many hopeful homeowners who could not afford their own house. In September of 1976, Habitat For Humanity International (HFHI) was no longer a dream, but a reality.
This non-profit organization is a Christian Ministry in which faith, hard work and direction are driving forces for success. "What the poor need is not charity but capital, not caseworkers but co-workers," wrote Linda Fuller in a letter to her original small group. "And what the rich need is a wise, honorable and just way of helping others who are not as fortunate as themselves. Partnership housing is a concept where those in need of adequate housing work side by side with many volunteers to build a simple, yet decent house."
Habitat houses are built without profit added or interest charged. Rather, the buildings are financed by a revolving fund for HFHI. Basically, a family who qualifies for a house will make payments on an interest-free mortgage for a certain amount of time. The families have to take classes to learn about home ownership as well as put in 400 hours of "sweat equity" to receive a home. The money that one family pays toward their home is put into a fund that is then used to start building another home for a new family. Donations and no-interest loans provided by the HFHI supporters and money earned by fund-raising activities all go into a fund for habitat for humanity.
The chapter's moto, "It's our heart and soul, our brain and brawn, our determination and team work that drives Habitat for Humanity of Southern Brazoria County to bring families in need together with volunteers and communities," what many of the volunteers take to heart when helping build these homes.
Mary Ruth Rhodenbaugh, executive director for Habitat for Humanity's Southern Brazoria County Chapter is a well-known individual in Brazoria County. People know her as more than just a political figure; they know her as one who dedicates many hours finding lots for housing and gathering volunteers together to make a dream come true for a deserving family. Recently, Southern Brazoria County's local chapter started work on house #54, which is located in Lake Jackson.
The house will be completed shortly after Spring Break. The Rodriguez's, who will be the new owners of this house, have four children ages 3 to 12 years old. This home's four-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath house will be a more permanent residence for a family who has moved around a lot.
Volunteers who participate in building these houses include retirees and employees from area businesses who take vacation days to spend time on the job site. Having watched the volunteers build house #54, a different perspective has been given to Habitat for Humanity.
"About eight years ago, Habitat for Humanity called us to take a look at one of the house's air conditioning units. They asked us to bid a quote for future houses and since then, [the local Habitat Chapter] has used us for installing," said one area business. "This gives us a great opportunity to give back to the community because the community has blessed us with their business."
Other volunteer groups will help make the Rodriguez's dream a reality. Ten inmates from the Darrington State Prison unit in Rosharon will be working on the house as well as students and two faculty advisers from Widener University, a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.
Habitat for Humanity makes it possible for a family to have the American dream of owning their own home. Had it not been for the Fuller's vision of Habitat for Humanity back in 1976, the organization would still be a dream. It seems sometimes dreams come true after all.