Group plans to build a legacy

Published 11:19 pm Friday, February 6, 2009

The Suffolk branch of the Fuller Center for Housing already is planning a way to leave a legacy for its founder in Suffolk.

Millard Fuller, 74, the founder of Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Center for Housing, died early Tuesday morning at his home in Georgia. He had suffered a brief illness, and aides say he was sick when he visited Suffolk in January. A preliminary autopsy suggests the cause of death was congestive heart failure, according to the Fuller Center’s Web site.

“When Millard was here in Suffolk, I knew that he had been ill and was on antibiotics,” said Angela Koncz, leader of the Suffolk branch of the Fuller Center. “He never let on that he was sicker than he was.”

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Koncz said she was stunned when she heard of Fuller’s death on Tuesday.

Fuller visited Suffolk in mid-January, speaking to an intimate crowd at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church on Jan. 17.

Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity when the first house was built in 1969. It wasn’t until 1976, though, that Habitat for Humanity International was born. It all started with the humanitarian idea that he could build houses for his neighbors who were too poor to qualify for conventional home loans.

By the organization’s 25th anniversary, more than half a million people were living in Habitat homes, according to Habitat’s Web site.

In 2005, after Habitat ousted Fuller following disputes over the organization’s future mission, Fuller founded the Fuller Center for Housing, a Christian organization dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide.

In January, Suffolk was host for the first Fuller Center Partner’s and Training Conference, held at the Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center. Fuller Center staffers from all around the country flew in for a time of work, exchanging ideas and encouragement.

At the closing of the conference at Westminster on Jan. 17, Fuller asked the staff to help him honor his 50th anniversary with his wife, Linda, on Aug. 30 by building houses all around the world. That mission will go on, despite Fuller’s death, Koncz said.

“We’re going to keep building in his name,” she said. “That’s what he would want for us to do.”

Koncz said Linda Fuller called her personally this week to speak with her and ask her to continue Fuller’s legacy. Therefore, Koncz is planning a “legacy build” in August to honor Fuller. The organization is looking for a donation of property in Suffolk to do the build, as well as construction partners.

For more information on helping the Suffolk branch of the Fuller Center, call 235-2151. For more information about Fuller, visit