When former millionaire attorney Millard Fuller drove by one of the many houses his organization had built for the poor and homeless, he met a 5-year-old boy who was playing in front of the house.
Fuller, who knew that ex-President Jimmy Carter had personally worked on the house, asked the boy if he knew who built his house. Bearing a broad smile, the boy immediately replied, "Yeah. It was Jesus Christ."Fuller, president and founder of Habitat for Humanity, told a Salt Lake audience Friday that indeed the boy's answer was correct - since Habitat applies the "economics of Jesus" in its non-denominational approach, asking all churches and individuals to help build homes for the needy.
Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the organization also organized the Salt Lake Valley branch of Habitat for Humanity in 1986. That group has completed five homes and is working on three others.
"I've been to Salt Lake City several times, and it's always a joy to come here," Fuller said. "There are many, many people in this city who are committed to the idea that people who are made in the image of God deserve a decent place to live.
"You've done a good job," he said, noting that people from various denominations built homes in Salt Lake City, Ogden and Brigham City. "I know that you're on the brink of even greater things."
Greater things, according to Fuller, means building even more houses in more states and countries. Habitat has building projects in South and Central America, the Philippines, Africa and Mexico.
"The level of interest (in helping fulfill this goal) among all the people in the United States and across the world is increasing," he said, noting that in 1991 his organization built at least 1,500 homes within 15 weeks during a "building blitz," with famous participants such as Jimmy Carter and actor Paul Newman.
The ultimate goal, however, is to get projects going in every state - Alaska still doesn't have a Habitat program - and in more countries such as Poland and Armenia, said Fuller.
Beginning in 1993, Fuller would like Habitat to put up at least 1,000 homes in the United States. Aside from the extra efforts in 1991 that were designed to draw attention to the program, Habitat's worldwide operations erect about 300 homes a month.
In addition to church-run projects, Fuller also said nearly 300 U.S. college and high school campuses participate in the effort to make homelessness and poverty socially unacceptable. The University of Utah's Bennion Center is part of the program, too.
Although Fuller sounded as if he had everything under control, he said that his organization had internal difficulties during the last year and a half but is now reunited, after its "Back on Track" campaign which raised more than a million dollars.
Problems are nothing new for Fuller who became a millionaire at 30 but soon found that material gain was destroying his marriage. Not knowing how to solve his marriage problems, Fuller said he took to the Bible where he found comfort and eventually came across Luke 18:22.
Salt Lake Valley's Habitat for Humanity will hold its annual meeting Monday, Oct. 14, at the Salt Lake County Complex, 2000 S. State, Room 4017, beginning at 7 p.m.