Habitat for Humanity founder speaks of civic engagement at Abington

Penn State Abington hosted Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller on Thursday, Jan. 22, in coordination with Martin Luther King Day activities. Repeating sentiments expressed by King as well as our nation's newly elected president, Fuller spoke of the importance of civic engagement and responsibility.

“President Obama put the spotlight on the need for all of us to take responsibility as individuals to not only look after ourselves, but to look after our neighbors. He’s calling upon all of us to reach out more. I want to echo that,” said Fuller.

Fuller captivated the campus community as he told story after story in his endearing Southern accent. Born and raised in Alabama as a child of sharecroppers, he was the first in his family to go to college, graduating from Auburn University and University of Alabama Law School. Before the age of 30 he was a self-made millionaire living in a mansion with servants. As he explained, a personal crisis made him reevaluate his self-centered ways. By renewing his marriage and commitment to Christ, he and his wife drastically changed their lifestyle to refocus their lives on helping the poor and people in need, and to live a life of "service to make the world a better place." And with that, Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) was born in 1976.

Under Fuller’s 29 years of leadership, HFHI provided decent housing for more than 1 million people in 100 countries. To date, HFHI has built more than 300,000 homes. Since 2005, Fuller has devoted his time and energy to the Fuller Center for Housing; similar to HFHI, it is a nonprofit Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing.

"Civic engagement is not just something you ought to be involved in; but it is a joyous thing," Fuller said. "It has rewards beyond any words to express how meaningful it is."

To illustrate his point he told the heartwarming story of Willy James and Rosebelle Reynolds from southwest Georgia. In his slow Southern drawl, he told of how happy and thrilled Rosebelle was with her new, 1,000-square-foot home with indoor plumbing. Of how much better it was than the home they came from that had no running water, and holes in the floor and ceiling. So happy was Rosebelle that with her face aglow and a huge smile spanning from cheek to cheek, she told Fuller, "Being in this new house is like we was dead and buried and got dug up."

"Civic engagement has a huge reward, a huge payoff. It’s not just good citizenship to be civically engaged, it’s not just good religion, good politics, good sociology, it’s good common sense," Fuller concluded.

For details about the Fuller Center for Housing, visit http://www.fullercenter.org/.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity, go to http://www.habitat.org/.