0

Fuller Center kicks off project in Forest Park

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Fuller Center for Housing -- founded two and a half years ago by the same man who founded Habitat for Humanity -- chose Forest Park as the location of its first affordable housing project in metro Atlanta.

The lot, located at 5241 Springdale Road in Forest Park, will soon become the site of a new 1128 square foot, three-bedroom home for a needy family from the Clayton County area.

Several acts of charity made the groundbreaking this past Saturday possible, and many city officials were present at the ground breaking, including Forest Park City Manager John Parker.

"The housing market is certainly in a slump right now," said Parker. "This is a market in which people may not ever be able to own a home without this kind of support. I appreciate the effort that they're making to help those people who cannot help themselves."

Mike Cherwenka, a real estate developer from Decula, Ga., donated the land, which had been an empty lot for several years. On top of that, real estate guru, Tim Winders, donated $20,000 -- the proceeds from his recent seminar at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel Atlanta Airport -- to help get the project started. Mark Galey, president of the Atlanta Fuller Center, said the largest challenge in building a home was finding suitable, affordable land and that the donated land from Cherwenka was "one-third of the battle."

"Owning a home is a key to wealth building," said Galey. The program is "reaching a segment of society that wouldn't be able to afford a house otherwise."

Cherwenka said he was inspired to donate the Forest Park property by Galey, whom, along with Cherwenka, is a member of the Georgia Real Estate Investors Associations (REIA), Inc. Cherwenka said that Galey encourages all members of Georgia REIA to give back to the community by donating at least one property in their lifetime.

"I donated to the Fuller Center because I believe in giving back," said Cherwenka. "You might run into a single mother, who just does not have the means to survive unless somebody stands up." He said if the project in Forest Park is successful, it will serve as the catalyst for other Fuller Center projects in the area.

Galey said the house is in no way a "giveaway," however. He said that family or friends of the potential occupants would have to put in at least "350 sweat-equity hours" and the primary recipient would have to contribute 150 personal work hours into building the house.

"They will actually be involved in building their own home," said Galey. "If they can't lift board, they can do their work for another charity."

Millard Fuller, president of the Fuller Center for Housing, also founded Habitat for Humanity in 1976 and served as its president for nearly 30 years. In 2005, he left Habitat to start the Fuller Center, which he believed could take a more Christian, less corporate approach to affordable home building.

Fuller believes the house is part of God's work in the city of Forest Park. "The airport is a huge economic benefit to the city," said Fuller. "It has many high-paying jobs and many low-paying jobs. Those people who have those lower-paying jobs need a place to live ... not that far from work. Fuller, quoting a passage of Matthew 25:35, described the Fuller Center as a Christian ministry, which aims to invite strangers into a home.

"I don't know the people who are going to live in that house in Forest Park, but God knows them and we should invite them in," said Fuller.

Galey predicted that the home would be built by Thanksgiving of this year, and is currently seeking applications for potential residents.

"We want them to eat turkey in the house," said Galey. "For us, it's a realistic date for raising the money, and we think it will raise excitement."

For more information about the home, or the Fuller Center for Housing, visit www.fullercenteratl.org, or www.fullercenter.org.