By Josh Letner
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
A newly arrived nonprofit group is ready to help Joplin residents find housing in the wake of the 2011 tornado.
Bob Barker, a retired chaplain from Miami, Okla., said the establishment of the Joplin Area Fuller Center for Housing began with what he calls “a holy nudge.”
“I often talk about what I consider to be a holy nudge from the Lord — that God sometimes nudges people in a direction, and if we listen to that then many times things will start happening,” Barker said.
For Barker, his journey took a turn after a conversation with Charles Ray, coordinator for disaster response with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Barker said he was inquiring about becoming involved with the group’s disaster response effort.
“That was May 19, and the tornado hit that Sunday,” he said.
In the ensuing weeks, Barker coordinated teams of volunteers from the American Baptist Alliance who flocked to Joplin to aid in the recovery effort. Barker said that in September, Ray suggested bringing the Fuller Center for Housing to Joplin in an effort to meet the community’s acute need for housing.
Barker, who sits on the group’s board of directors, said the group’s articles of incorporation were approved earlier this year by the Missouri secretary of state’s office, and the group received 501(c)(3) status, making all donations to the group tax-deductible.
According to the organization’s website, the Fuller Center for Housing is a nonprofit ecumenical housing ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide.
The Fuller Center was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in 2005 in their hometown of Americus, Ga. The couple also founded Habitat for Humanity in 1976. The couple split with Habitat in 2005 but maintained their desire to provide adequate housing for people in need. By forming partnerships with local organizations, the group seeks to provide support that communities need to build and repair homes for the impoverished. The group boasts covenant partnerships in 70 communities and 16 countries around the world.
Barker said the Fuller Center has a “sibling relationship” with Habitat for Humanity. Their goals are similar, as are their methods.
Randy Crane, another director of the Joplin Area Fuller Center, said the group has selected its first partner family and hopes to begin construction of its first home in June. He said the group is seeking partner families and applicants to take part in the organization’s Greater Blessing Program, which provides up to $5,000 in repairs and renovations to existing homes.
Barker said the group hopes to build up to eight new homes this year and provide repairs to up to 15 existing homes. Barker stressed that the Fuller Center is not a stopgap relief effort. He said the organization’s commitment to the community will continue.
“When we set up the Fuller Center, it wasn’t just to meet the immediate needs of people affected by the tornado,” he said. “At some point in the future, we would like to reach beyond the Joplin tornado-affected area to help the surrounding communities.”
Barker said those interested in applying for assistance from the Fuller Center may pick up an application at the group’s offices inside the Transform Joplin Warehouse at 1201 S. Wall Ave., or contact Dixie Starmer, Family Selection Committee chairwoman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Officials with the United Nations estimate that more than a billion people around the world live in substandard housing.