As a young woman from the South, Linda never imagined that she would someday start and lead a global organization. Now Habitat for Humanity, the non-profit she founded with her husband, Millard, is expected to build 700,000 homes around the world by the year 2016.
Personal and professional fulfillment didn’t come easily to Linda and her husband. Their early years in Alabama were filled with challenge and heartbreak. At nineteen, already married with her first born, she pursued a degree in elementary education while Millard launched a successful marketing firm. But success came at a high price. There was little time for the family to be together. “I became very lonely and miserable. I thought we were headed for divorce. I told my husband that I was leaving for New York City to undergo counseling for a couple of weeks,” Linda says. “That shocked him into realizing that he didn’t want to lose his family.”
In an effort to reinvent themselves, they decided to sell all of their possessions and start over. Their faith in God guided them along the way. “We had no idea what we would do. After six years of marriage, we took our first vacation in Florida with our five and three-year old. We just rode around and got to know one another,” reveals Linda.
Their search for a new life led them to Georgia, where they pioneered a low-cost housing program at a Christian commune, Koinonia Farm. Eager to expand this new concept, they decided to move the family to Africa and started a similar project there. They lived in Zaire for three years before they returned back to the States.
In 1976, Habitat for Humanity International was conceived. Through the use of volunteers and donations from corporations, congregations, and individuals, the organization supports communities around the world in the fight against substandard housing and homelessness. Today, its efforts are responsible for more than 20,000 affordable housing units per year.
Linda feels privileged to serve others. “Interacting with people of all economic levels and cultures, I have learned how fragile life can be and the importance of reaching out to the community. Being able to experience a family’s joy after they’ve lived in terrible conditions is a real benefit of working for this organization,” she says. Linda has also created Women Build, a program designed to encourage and train unskilled women in the construction of Habitat homes.
Juggling the demands of leading a worldwide organization with the responsibilities of being a wife, mother, and now grandmother “has been a challenge,” Linda admits. “Over the years, I felt that I sometimes neglected myself. It takes a conscientious effort to make time for my husband too. We both had to learn to take days off. As a result, our relationship has deepened and grown significantly.”
Article by Linda Fuller,
Co-Founder – Habitat for Humanity International