Michele Williams, an avid Lewes-area cyclist, found her calling during a Fuller Center for Housing bike adventure in Tennessee and Mississippi with her late husband, Jay Kirby. The ride helped raise funds to support the organization and also get the riders involved in hands-on work.
But establishing a local connection to the organization was interrupted by a series of unexpected events that would turn Williams’ world upside down, including the deaths of her husband, father and mother-in-law.
The Fuller Center, a faith-driven, Christ-centered organization, promotes partnerships with individuals and community groups to build and rehabilitate homes for people in need. The organization uses a series of bicycling events to raise awareness and funds.
“These bike adventures support the Fuller Center for Housing’s efforts to end poverty housing worldwide. The Fuller Center builds and repairs homes with partner families who participate in the work and pay the costs forward on a no-profit, no-interest basis they can afford,” Williams said.
In April 2019, the couple joined other cyclists to ride 444 miles on the Natchez Trace Pathway with the Fuller Center for Housing. In the middle of the ride, they stopped in several communities that needed assistance on rehabbing houses.
“On my trip, I realized that these housing projects we were doing had far-reaching impacts of improving communities for health and prosperity. When a community experiences improvements in health and prosperity, you see housing security, employment, rising real estate values, reductions in crime, joblessness, homelessness, and increases in community safety and security,” Williams said.
The couple realized they could use the same model in Sussex County, an area experiencing growing homelessness and a lack of affordable housing. They started to investigate how to get involved with the organization in a covenant partnership.
In the middle of this pursuit, Jay was hit by a car Sept. 11, 2019, while cycling on Route 1, and eventually succumbed to his injuries on Sept. 23. Jay’s Ghost Bike Memorial is near the place where the accident occurred, at the Route 1-Kings Highway intersection.
Local board is established
After two sudden and unexpected passings over six months and then COVID-19 lockdowns, Williams’ progress on starting a partnership was slowed. In July 2020, with the assistance of key members of Epworth United Methodist Church and other nonprofit members, a board of directors was established to create a Fuller Center for Housing of Delaware in October 2020.
Williams said she is looking to build more board and team members with faith-based groups in housing and youth ministries, students who like to build things while in service to the community, or any other group that wants to get involved in the Fuller Center’s mission.
She wants to partner with nearby states that have covenant partnerships in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. “It’s not only to have a bike adventure to feature the Mid-Atlantic region, especially Sussex County, and bring in an army of Fuller House bike adventure builders, but to create a community that prizes/cherishes hands ups for healthy community development and dignified housing for all,” she said.
The Fuller Center for Housing of Delaware is participating in the DoMore24 Delaware campaign. The state’s premier 24-hour charitable giving event will be held from 6 p.m., Thursday, March 3, to 6 p.m., Friday, March 4. To donate, go to domore24delaware.org/fundraisers/fuller-center-for-housing-of-delaware.
The Fuller Center, a 501(c)(3) Christian nonprofit, has been evaluated by top charity watchdogs and received highest ratings; it is also a Guidestart Platinum Participant. Based in Georgia, the organization operates throughout the United States and in 20 other countries.
What donations provide: $50, a large box of nails to hold the home together; $100, 5 gallons of safe paint to make the home beautiful; $250, a front door to welcome the family and their guests; $500, the bathroom to make the home healthy and sanitary; $1,000, sturdy blocks and rebar for strong walls; $2,500, a new roof to protect the family’s home for decades; $5,500, allows for a family’s fresh start to live in a healthy, decent home for the first time, a generational-level change; $100,000 or more, community-level transformation.