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A Cause for Our Industry: NRHA Partners with Fuller Center for Housing

In 2011, Indianapolis retailers joined hundreds of volunteers, including staff from the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA), in the heart of one of Indianapolis’s most crime-ridden and neglected neighborhoods for a Fuller Center for Housing work blitz that would ultimately renovate and build homes for more than 10 local families. Now, more than four years later, volunteers still share the effect that event had on them.

“There are a few things I’ve done in my life, including catching a 10-pound walleye and riding fast motorcycles, that compare to the thrill and self-fulfillment I get when I walk away from one of these builds,” says Tim Dubois, one of the head builders on the 2011 Legacy Build.

This kind of project is a natural fit for home improvement retailers who are committed to helping people transform their homes and build better living spaces.

“The neighbors said if you help this area, you’ll not only help this street, but you’ll help more than 25,000 people who live around here,” says Jeff Cardwell, owner of Cardwell Do-it Best Home Center in Indianapolis. Today, the neighborhood remains a bright light in the area. Crime is dramatically reduced, more neighbors have taken pride in their homes and more homes have been renovated. The project has provided hope in an area many believed was hopeless.

For these reasons and more, independent home improvement retailers are coming together with NRHA to lead an industry-wide effort to provide quality and affordable housing for families by partnering with The Fuller Center for Housing.

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What is the Fuller Center for Housing?

The Fuller Center for Housing is a nonprofit faith-based organization that seeks to eradicate poverty housing by promoting partnerships with individuals and community groups to rehabilitate or build homes for people in need. Through these collaborative and innovative partnerships with individuals and organizations, the organization pursues its unrelenting quest to provide adequate shelter for all people.

“This partnership is just another way our entire industry, including wholesalers, manufacturers and independent retailers, can come together to help families in their communities,” says Bill Lee, president and CEO of NRHA. “I am truly inspired by the work The Fuller Center for Housing does, and I’m excited to see how our industry will partner with the organization to provide decent homes for families who need our help.”

All homeowners work hand-in-hand with volunteers to renovate or build their own homes, which they then pay back on terms they can afford. Additionally, the organization provides educational opportunities for the new homeowners on topics ranging from personal finance to home repairs.

“It’s a pretty innovative concept,” Lee says. “These efforts are a ‘hand up,’ not a handout. We all know a decent place to live is the foundation for a successful life. Too many kids are living in substandard housing or are homeless in our cities and towns. 

“Often, these families just need a start; a place they can own that gives them a sense of pride and security. There are plenty of abandoned or derelict houses we can fix up to provide good homes for these families.”

Since launching in 2005, The Fuller Center for Housing has spanned the globe and now has local partners in more than 60 communities in the U.S. and 16 countries. 

The organization continues to grow as groups from new communities look to become a part of the mission.

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A Focused Mission

One of the first questions many retailers and volunteers have is whether The Fuller Center for Housing is just like Habitat for Humanity. While the missions are similar in that both organizations want to provide quality living conditions to families in need, the Fuller Center and its Save a House/Make a Home fund is designed to renovate and build properties in cities and towns, creating affordable homes and transforming neighborhoods.

In addition, the organization focuses on smaller repair and maintenance projects for existing homeowners. Often, these repairs are for the elderly or handicapped who don’t have the financial resources or ability to make repairs on their own. 

The Fuller Center for Housing attempts to work more closely with local community organizations, such as operations run by independent retailers, in an effort to cycle funding back into the community through local businesses. It is committed to remaining a local grassroots organization and is committed to not seeking the support of big-box chains.

“The size of Fuller Center projects is perfect for independent retailers,” Lee says. “And, the Fuller Center’s commitment to not partner with the big boxes, but rather focus on seeking partnerships with local retailers, makes it a cause we should support.”

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How To Get Involved

There are numerous ways members of the independent home improvement channel can participate in this new charity partnership. 

Save a House/Make a Home Fund

NRHA has established a way for retailers, manufacturers and distributors to participate in The Fuller Center for Housing’s cause through the establishment of the Save a House/Make a Home fund. The Save a House/Make a Home fund will raise cash donations to “stock” a virtual warehouse, which will provide product purchasing power for repairing and renovating homes. This fund will be used for matching grants for local partners who want to do a home repair or renovation project. NRHA will seed the Save a House/Make a Home fund with a $25,000 contribution on behalf of its independent retailer members.

All money raised through the Save a House/Make a Home fund will be spent buying home improvement products from local, independent home improvement stores and putting money back into the industry and the communities in which retailers live and work.

Volunteer to Participate in a Work Project

Additionally, there are many opportunities throughout the year for retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers to participate in building projects throughout the U.S. and internationally. These are rewarding opportunities, and many people in the industry have unique knowledge and skills that are vitally needed. After participating in a project, participants will have a better understanding of the need and how they can help. “Besides, helping others feels good and is tremendously rewarding,” Lee says.

Starting a Local Covenant Partnership

If there is not a local Fuller Center chapter in your area, starting one can be a meaningful opportunity for a retailer to give back to his community.

The Fuller Center for Housing staff has everything a retailer needs to begin bringing community resources together to start helping those in their towns improve their lives. “Independents have always been great at contributing to their local communities, and this is another opportunity,” Lee says. “What more appropriate way for a home improvement retailer to give back but through repairing and renovating the homes of those in need?”

NRHA and Hardware Retailing will provide ongoing communication regarding how industry partners are helping. Those making contributions will be recognized, and the stories of how they are helping will be shared in the industry to encourage further participation.

For more information about participating with NRHA and the Fuller Center for Housing, contact Bill Lee at blee@nrha.org.

About Amanda Bell

Amanda Bell was an assistant editor of Hardware Retailing and NRHA. Amanda regularly visited with home improvement retailers across the country and attended industry events and seminars. She earned a degree in magazine journalism from Ball State University and has received honors for her work for Hardware Retailing from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.

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