Building habitat is a high calling, Aug. 6, 2005

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2005

Habitat for Humanity International is back in the news today, having picked Jonathan T.M. Reckford as its new chief executive.

Reckford, a Minnesota pastor who has done stints at Goldman, Sachs & Company, Walt Disney Company and Best Buy, is obviously a shrewd businessman who Habitat hopes can bring its fund raising out of the doldrums.

Fund raising has slumped since Habitat Founder Millard Fuller was ousted and started a competing housing group originally called "Building Habitat," but changed the name after Habitat for Humanity sued him. He changed the name to the Fuller Center for Housing. He's reportedly raised about $4 million so far, many from former Habitat donors, which has put a hurting on the organization he founded.

Email newsletter signup

Fuller was fired by Habitat's board over allegations of sexual harassment. He reportedly put his hand on a female employee's knee in the back of a car en route to an airport. Fuller denied the charges and apparently there was insufficient evidence of it to support any type of legal action.

All of this, of course, is tied to what has happened locally with Suffolk Habitat volunteers, obviously devotees of Fuller, breaking off and forming their own group, "Building Suffolk," which itself just ironed out an agreement with Habitat so that both organizations can operate.

As I've said here before, while I admire the work of charitable groups, I can't stand the politics involved, which is as vicious as any in the business world or in government. Power does go to people's heads, making those who joined an organization for altruistic reasons do bizarre things when they move up to holding board or officer positions.

Building Suffolk will have an organizational meeting at West End Baptist Church later this month.

I hope the national organizations, as the local ones were able to do, can iron out their differences. Their stated missions, providing housing for the poor, are too important to let politics get in the way.