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Putting life back in the neighborhood

There's no doubt that family is important to Lisa Fuller. Almost every evening, she says, extended family members gather at her current house, even though it's small and crowded even for her and her five children: Donte, 14; Maria and Mariah, 13-year-old twins; Mandrell, 11; and Leshonda, 9.

Lisa Fuller's daughters (l-r)—Mariah, Maria and Leshonda—share one small bedroom in their current home in Saginaw, Mich.

The three girls share a room, though Leshonda often ends up in Lisa's room, Lisa explains. The boys share the third bedroom. "But we need some more space," Lisa says. "My girls are becoming young women; Donte's becoming a young man—they need some privacy."

Lisa thinks that having a little more space will ultimately bring them all closer together as a family. "My family deserves this," she says, "and I know that with the six of us working together, we can do it."

Lisa had applied for a Habitat house before, but she had not been accepted to partner. "They wouldn't give up on me, though," Lisa says. Staff at Saginaw Habitat for Humanity helped Lisa get her credit in order and encouraged her to reapply. One night this March, she got a phone call: She was accepted to partner during the June 2005 blitz build.

"I just went to screaming," Lisa laughs. "I got up and ran through the house yelling, 'Thank you, Jesus!' and hugging all my kids and saying, 'We're getting a house! We're getting a house!'"

Lisa's new Habitat house will be just a few blocks from her current rental house in East Saginaw in an area known as the Cathedral District. "A lot of people don't want to be here," Lisa says, "but we've got a lot of good things going on over here, a lot of good assets—it's just a matter of bringing them out."

She believes the Saginaw blitz, in coordination with the Jimmy Carter Work Project, will "put life back in the neighborhood." She hopes the block of new houses will inspire existing homeowners to take better care of their own homes.

"I can't wait," Lisa says. "It's going to change things."

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