Owning a home has been called the American Dream. That makes Millard Fuller a dreammaker.
Fuller was a millionaire attorney 15 years ago when he decided he wanted to give back to the community some of the bounty he had received.With his wife, Linda, Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity, a non-denominational Christian volunteer organization that renovates or builds homes for people who could never hope to purchase one through conventional channels. All work is done by volunteers.
The future owners work with the crews on the homes, which are then purchased with low-interest loans.
Fifteen years and 13,000 homes later, Habitat is huge: 200,000 volunteers in hundreds of U.S. cities and similar groups in more than 50 nations.
Fuller will be in Salt Lake City Friday night to celebrate Habitat for Humanity's anniversary. He will speak at Judge Memorial High School at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but tickets are required and can be obtained by calling 266-6748.
"We had a vision at the beginning. We wanted to be a part of a movement that would have an impact on individual lives," Fuller said in a telephone interview. "There are many dreams that never get fulfilled. We can - we are - making this one happen.
"Government has been in retreat in terms of providing shelter for our citizens."
Fuller compares homelessness and poverty housing to smoking, a practice that is becoming less socially acceptable. Habitat, he said, "wants to make poverty housing and homelessness morally and socially unacceptable. We have the resources. The only thing missing is the will."
America years ago decided that starvation is unacceptable. If jailers said they were saving taxpayers money by not feeding prisoners, he said, they would be called barbarians.
"The same people who get hungry in daytime get sleepy at night. I believe everyone ought to have a clean, decent place to live."
The national organization has marked its anniversary with 15 "blitz-building" teams that have built about 500 houses in 225 cities in a 15-week period. Some of the blitz builders are famous, like former President Jimmy Carter and actor Paul Newman. Most, Miller said, are hard-working students, housewives, business executives and plumbers - people who make a huge but quiet difference one nail at a time.