Habitat for Humanity had its busiest week ever starting September 8, constructing 150 homes in 70 cities, including its 50,000th dwelling as part of a twentieth-anniversary celebration.

Hundreds of congregations participated in the "Building on Faith" blitz. Around 1,500 volunteers from 39 Protestant and Catholic churches erected the 50,000th house in Pensacola, Florida, in eight hours.

The nonprofit Christian organization, based in Americus, Georgia, builds simple houses at no-interest loans in an effort to alleviate susbstandard housing and homelessness. Homeowners invest hundreds of hours of sweat equity into the project. Habitat sells the homes at no profit, with the average three-bedroom dwelling costing $35,000.

"There is a difference between the visible and invisible homeless," Habitat for Humanity founder and president Millard Fuller told CT. "This is not a ministry for people pushing around shopping carts with all their belongings."

Fuller points to the Michael and Tammy Harris family, who moved into the 50,000th house with their four children. They had been living in a three-bedroom home with nine people from two other families.

At a dedication ceremony, Ernesto and Sylvia Torres of San Antonio, who still occupy the first Habitat for Humanity dwelling ever built, presented a Bible to the Harris family.

Fuller, 61, has used a "theology of the hammer" ecumenical approach in appealing to all faiths. "True religion has to be more than singing and talking," he says. But Fuller says Habitat will not become a secular organization, the fate of some institutions with Christian roots.

"While we are not doctrinal or denominational, we are overtly Christian," Fuller told CT. "We need the salt and leaven of the evangelical world."

Habitat for Humanity has built homes in more than 1,300 U.S. cities and in 48 countries. President Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Fuller in a September 9 White House ceremony.

Last Updated: October 10, 1996

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.