Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing founding members include, from left, Jim McBride of North Windham Union Church, Lorraine Glowzcak of Faith Lutheran Church in Windham, Diane Dunton of North Windham Union Church and Steve McFarland of Saint Joseph’s College. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

A new nonprofit serving Windham, Raymond and Standish will work to help elderly people stay in their homes safely through renovations and repairs.

The Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing is a chapter of the national Fuller Center for Housing, which is based in Georgia and was founded in 2005 by Millard Fuller, also the founder of Habitat for Humanity.

“Each chapter can identify their own focus in terms of the area that they want to cover and what they want to do. What we’ve identified is to be able to help people who are in the aging population stay in their homes safely,” said Diane Dunton, president of the Sebago Lakes Region chapter, the first in Maine.

The group will perform a variety of repairs on homes, from small modifications to larger projects, like the installation of a ramp.

This chapter of the Fuller Center was recently founded by six groups in Windham, Standish and Raymond. Courtesy photo

The organization came together because of Bill Turner, a member of the Faith Lutheran Church in Windham. He participates in bicycle rides each year to raise money for the Fuller Center and brought the idea back to his church.

If there’s something not to like (about Fuller), I don’t know what it is,” Turner said. “On a Fuller build site, you’ve got Republicans there and Democrats there, and it doesn’t matter. You’re all there to help people, and that’s what matters.”

Six organizations came together to found the chapter: the Unity Center for Spiritual Growth in Windham, the Faith Lutheran Church in Windham, the North Windham United Church of Christ, Windham Hill United Church of ChristRaymond Village Community Church and Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. The groups met for the first time in July 2019 and received 501(c)3 nonprofit status in December 2019.

Steve McFarland, director of career development at Saint Joseph’s, said he anticipates that the Fuller Center will begin meeting in April with families of elderly residents, who will go through a formal process to determine if they fit within Fuller’s profile of need. Dunton said there is no age minimum, but the organization will be looking for residents with the greatest need. 

There is an engagement process with the family,” McFarland said. “We want them to be partners with us and (be) doing what they can.” 

The chapter is part of the Fuller Center’s Greater Blessing Box Program, which means that its services are “not free, but that people will be able to pay it forward. We help determine what a family has the means to contribute, and then what they contribute helps pay it forward (and fund other projects),” Dunton said. 

Turner, who has worked with the Fuller Center in Puerto Rico, said “the whole point of Fuller, as far as I can tell, is to build community. Get the job done but have a good time doing it.” 

We’re not looking to build houses,” said the Rev. Pat Bessey of the Unity Center. “We have an aging congregation, as most churches do. We do know how important it is for people to be able to stay in their homes.”

Dunton said there is a great need for such work in the region and the Fuller Center will work with contractors and other organizations, including Age-Friendly Raymond, to perform the repairs and renovations. The group will rely on volunteers to help complete its projects. Although it has received some money from the national organization and from each of its six founding organizations, it will rely on local fundraising as well.

It will be up to each of us partners to rally the forces to go out and do the work. I’m very excited about it,” Bessey said. “The feeling of accomplishment and how they have made a difference is really going to be the bigger picture here.” 

“I think it’s going to be wonderful for the communities that we’re serving, and it gives people hope,” Dunton said. “We want to give people hope.” 

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