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Macon Change: The Fuller Center for Housing works to improve Macon

A completed Fuller Center home in Napier Heights.
A completed Fuller Center home in Napier Heights.

For the past six years, the Fuller Center for Housing of Macon has worked to promote positive change in low income areas near Mercer University.

Dianne Fuller, the center’s executive director, hopes to improve the Napier Heights community, which includes parts of Pio Nono Avenue and homes near I-75. Fuller hopes to provide families homes that will alter their lives.

A.K. Redding is a recipient of a Fuller Center home. She said she has seen a transformation in her children’s lives and feels a weight has been lifted off her shoulders.

“It has been an amazing experience to own our home. It means something so special that it's ours. This house has made a huge difference with my children. When they are happy, I'm happy,” Redding said.

The center is able to acquire properties through the Land Bank Authority and works to create revitalized living spaces for families who otherwise may not have the resources to buy a home.

“The center’s goal is to renovate derelict properties to ‘like-new’ standards. Once renovations are complete, the property is then sold to a low income family who is not eligible for a traditional bank mortgage loan,” Fuller said.

The center acts as the bank to the recipient of the home. To be eligible for a Fuller Center home, the applicant must participate in the renovation process and put in “sweat equity,” she said.

“Families interested in owning their own home must be willing to partner with the organization, meet income guidelines and complete an application-evaluation process, which means submitting personal and financial information, a credit and background check and participating in homeowner education classes,” she said.

Fuller hopes that the center can improve people’s lives, both physically and emotionally, by providing them with safe, proper living conditions.

Her motto, “Save a house, build a home,” is exactly what she hopes to do in Napier Heights.

“The cycle of poverty is reciprocal. One of the ways you can break this cycle is to make homes affordable and to make them safe. Studies show that when children live in unstable conditions, whether it’s being homeless or living in a car or on the street, whether you’ve got 20 people in one apartment, statistically that is an unhealthy and unsafe place to live,” she said.

Fuller believes that when people take pride in their residence, they will want to improve other homes and deserted parks in their area.

“The idea is to make the neighborhood shine. When things look good you take pride in it. When they don’t look good, it invites elements like crime, prostitution and drug dealing,” she said.

Local businesses, like Pyle’s Plumbing, support the center by providing free labor; people who volunteer their time and resources allow the center to renovate the homes at a lower cost, Fuller said. It is important to preserve the history of older neighborhoods in Macon, instead of letting them fall to waste.

“It’s a historic area, Napier Heights. Montpelier was the first road into Macon. It’s an area of history. We have Mercer right by there, public schools and house-wise it’s a beautiful area. It’s also close to Tattnall Square Park,” she said.

Fuller and her husband volunteer a majority of their time with the Fuller Center of Macon. Their family, however, has been involved with community service for years.

Fuller’s father-in-law, the late Millard Fuller, and his wife, Linda, founded both the Fuller Center for Housing as well as Habitat for Humanity.

“The Fuller Center for Housing is an international organization created in 2005. We have projects in about 16 countries and 66 communities in the United States,” Fuller said.

Fuller is pleased with the outreach from the Mercer community so far and hopes others who live in Macon will come and help improve Napier Heights.

“On NeighBear Day last September, we had about 100 Mercer students. They not only worked on houses, but they did street cleaning and picked up trash. Students also hung fliers on doors with information about the center and upcoming meetings,” she said.

This year’s Be a Good NeighBear will be Oct. 21, and students will have the opportunity to volunteer with the Fuller Center.

If the community gets involved and joins the fight to improve homes in the Napier Heights community, residents in these areas will want to become involved in other local activities, Fuller said. Showing compassion and interest is one of the many ways people can reach out and help make a difference.

“The homes we provide change the trajectory of (the residents’) lives,” she said. “For many, they’ve become used to a way of living and coping. It’s always a struggle, always a fight. Through the Fuller Center program, you can change that.”

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