Linda Fuller: co-founder of Habitat for Humanity International
“To families in seemingly impossible situations, Habitat for Humanity becomes a friend and partner. And, by their own labor and with God’s grace, they become owners of a decent home.”
― Linda Fuller
The co-founder of Habitat for Humanity International
Linda Fuller joined her husband Millard in launching the nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry in 1976. Prior to this, she pioneered a low-cost housing program in rural southwest Georgia (1968-1972) and undertaking three years of similar work in Africa. Her leadership helped forge Habitat for Humanity into a worldwide housing ministry.
While Linda was earning her degree in elementary education at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, her husband, Millard, began a marketing firm with a fellow attorney. The business prospered and soon the Fullers were millionaires. But with success and wealth, their marriage suffered. This crisis prompted the Fullers to re-evaluate their lives. Their soul-searching led to reconciliation with each other and to a renewal of their Christian commitment.
A step of faith
The Fullers then took a dramatic step: They decided to sell all of their possessions―giving the money to the poor—and to begin searching for a new focus. This search led them to Koinonia Farm, a Christian community located near Americus, Georgia where people were looking for practical ways to apply Christ’s teachings.
Beginnings of a new idea
With Koinonia founder Clarence Jordan and a few others, the Fullers initiated several partnership enterprises, including a housing ministry. They followed a passage in the Bible that says someone lending money to the poor should not act as a creditor and should not charge interest (Exodus 22:25.) In doing so, they chose to build houses on a no-profit, no-interest basis, thus making homes affordable to families with low incomes.
Each homeowner family was expected to make monthly payments over a 20-year period. These mortgage payments were placed into a revolving fund and money from that fund was then used to build more houses.
In 1973, the Fullers moved to Africa with their four children to test their housing model overseas. They were sponsored by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and worked in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The housing project was a success and became a working reality in Zaire. The Fullers were convinced that this model could be expanded and applied all over the world.
Habitat for Humanity International is formed
Upon their return home in 1976, the Fullers met with members of the Koinonia community and several people from across the United States and decided to create a new, independent organization: Habitat for Humanity International. From 1976 to 2005, the Fullers devoted their energies to the expansion of Habitat for Humanity throughout the world.
Linda Fuller’s accomplishments and commitments have been widely recognized. She has received seven honorary doctorate degrees and numerous awards, including the prestigious Harry S. Truman Public Service Award and the Mark O. Hatfield Leadership Award from the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (2001). Linda and her husband Millard are also Extra Mile honorees (2002) in the Points of Light Foundation memorial in downtown Washington, D.C.
Linda also took a leading role in planning the Nazareth Village Project, a re-creation of a first-century village in Nazareth. The village and museum/study/visitor center are aimed at helping people understand the teachings and times of Christ.
Linda Fuller works at the Women Building A Legacy kickoff event in Denver in 2001
Women in construction
A group of women at Habitat for Humanity’s international headquarters launched Women Accepting the Challenge of Housing. Eight years and 200 houses later, Linda spearheaded the formation of the Women Build department at Habitat for Humanity International.
Women Build, like WATCH, seeks to increase the involvement and skill level of women in the construction of Habitat houses. The Women Build department’s first major initiative was the highly successful First Ladies Build. During First Ladies Build, current and former first ladies, women governors, concerned women and Habitat partner families helped sponsor and organize women to build Habitat houses.
A second initiative, Women Building A Legacy, challenged women to make a positive impact on the future by providing safe, healthy housing where children can flourish and grow. Spearheaded by women celebrities and U.S. first ladies, Women Building A Legacy resulted in the completion of nearly 100 simple, decent, affordable houses built with families in need.
Mental health partnership
As a strong advocate of mental health, Linda initiated a partnership between Habitat for Humanity and mental health organizations in 1999. Through the partnership, consumers of mental health services work with Habitat affiliates to build houses with mental health providers, professionals and people representing mental health organizations and agencies.
See also our biography of Habitat founder, Millard Fuller.