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Last fall Network Associates Inc., the manufacturer of McAfee software, announced it had joined San Francisco's 24-hour news station, KCBS, in a goodwill promotion—purchases of McAfee products would result in a donation to Bay Area Habitat. I called the station's marketing director, Noel Wax, to ask if he knew that Habitat for Humanity was a Christian organization. After all, KCBS appeals to the broadest possible market, and San Francisco is not in the Bible belt.

"Does it make any difference to you?" I asked. "No," Wax said. "No difference whatsoever."

The station offers its partnership with Habitat as an incentive to potential advertisers, which are more than willing to pay for association with the Habitat name. Cisco Systems, Whirlpool, General Motors, Bank of America, and Home Depot are among the many companies that have partnered with Habitat.

Politicians from Newt Gingrich to Bill Clinton have made media splashes participating in Habitat projects. Habitat for Humanity has made it into the American mainstream.

Born of a spiritual crisis in the life of its founders, Millard and Linda Fuller, and incubated at Koinonia, a communal Christian farm with Southern Baptist roots, Habitat grew out of evangelical soil and maintains a vital Christian identity. Its mission statement mentions God three times, and its four official purposes include "to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world" and to exemplify "the Gospel of Jesus Christ through loving acts and the spoken and written word."

After 26 years of growing into one of the nation's largest homebuilders, Habitat's 2,000 affiliates worldwide and revenues of $550 million make it one of America's leading charities. It has built more than 120,000 homes for poor people ...

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In the Magazine

June 10, 2002

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