From left, Fuller Center board member Steve McFarland, volunteer Wayne Jones, board member Karen Swasey Jones and homeowner Ellen Huber in front of Huber’s house. The organization did yard work for Huber this fall, one of four projects since work began in August. The organization helps senior residents with home repairs and upkeep. Contributed / Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing

WINDHAM — The nonprofit organization Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing has hit the ground running, helping senior residents in Windham, Standish and Raymond and is already looking to expand their reach.

The organization is a local chapter of the national Fuller Center for Housing, which is based in Georgia and was started in 2005 by Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller.

Each chapter chooses its own focus and President Diane Dunton said the founding members felt they could make the most impact doing home repairs for senior residents.

“It has been shown that if people can stay in their homes safely, they can really benefit,” Dunton said. “Many times, they are on limited budgets so they are not able to have the resources to remodel or build something.”

The Sebago Lakes Region chapter was founded by six organizations last July: 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 Christ, Raymond Village Community Church and Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.

Most of last year was spent “really putting our infrastructure in place,” Dunton said.

Director of career development at Saint Joseph’s College and founding member Steve McFarland said the experience working with clients has been “phenomenal.”

While COVID-19 has prevented the group from working on indoor repairs, McFarland said they’ve completed four projects since August that range from yard work to repairing a deck.

During the winter months when outdoor work becomes difficult, they’ll start prepping for spring projects.

McFarland said he’s excited to see how their work has “dovetailed” with the work of other groups.

For example, he said, when Fuller Center was unable to do both the deck repair and build a handicap ramp for homeowner Debra Works, the nonprofit “action agency” Community Concepts stepped in to do the latter project.

Fuller Center primarily finds potential clients through their church networks or referrals, but also works with the towns and other groups to get the word out.

Pat Vigue, 86, said she read about Fuller Center in the news and reached out to them about repairing some rotted window trim and helping with yard work.

The Fuller Center’s help meant “everything” to her and her husband, Jerry, who is 90.

“They did a super job. We never expected them to do so much,” Vigue said.

About 15 volunteers helped on that project, but board member Karen Swasey Jones said they have 37 volunteers total that help out in various ways.

The organization depends on donations and their “pay-it-forward” model. In September, the Fuller Center held a virtual bike ride around Sebago Lake that raised $6,500, according to Dunton. The center works with each client to figure out payment plans or asks for donation of materials. If that’s not feasible, they might suggest providing snacks for the volunteers, Dunton said.

“Sometimes an elderly person is able to make phone calls for us or a one-time donation,” she said. “We look at different ways they can help.”

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