Clark County housing center gets new leader, looks to retool in 2017

Mark and Lori Senter went into the 2016 Christmas season without much cheer. The closer it came to the holidays, the nearer they were to eviction from their rented home.

The Clark County Fuller Center for Housing’s intervention provided its own version of a Christmas miracle. The Christian-based nonprofit helped the Senters, who also care for their 8-year-old grandson, with a lease-to-own deal that helped them get into a different home on East Grand Avenue that’s handicap-accessible and warmer.

“Wow, I didn’t think people really cared,” Mark Senter said. “My wife and I are both handicapped and this more or less saved us from being on the streets.”

RELATED: Clark County housing organization parts ways with national group

The past two years have brought a number of changes to the Fuller Center, which switched its national affiliation from Habitat for Humanity in 2015.

The center will continue to evolve this year, but the focus remains the same — providing decent, affordable housing for low-income residents and fighting substandard housing.

New Executive Director Kermit Rowe, who jumped right in on his first day last month with the Senters’ situation, said renewing a partnership and retooling its ReUse Store are part of the 2017 focus.

“From what I’ve seen, this could be a big year,” he said. “There are a lot of things that could fall into place.”

Rowe previously worked for the Springfield News-Sun and Cox Media Group for 15 years. Matt Wilson, the organization’s previous leader, left for medical reasons in April 2016.

Although there haven’t been any new homes built in about the past three years or so, the center offers another solution the prior affiliation didn’t — reconditioning services to make older homes more livable through repairs and other services.

“It may not be new, but it gives people a place to call home,” Rowe said.

There’s a good possibility the center will renew a partnership with the Neighborhood Housing Partnership of Greater Springfield, which has a similar mission but with a larger staff and services, including credit counseling.

Rowe said the ReUse Store is working with a consultant to redo its floor plan. Located at 259 S. Wittenberg Ave., it sells donated new and used home improvement items such as appliances, furniture and lighting fixtures.

One of the big new sellers is eco-paint that landlords and contractors love, according to Rowe.

He encourages people to check out its current New Year Blitz sale to clear out space, with all items except the paint at 25 percent off.

Proceeds from the store sales go back into the ministry to help families.

With good response from supporters, Rowe said signs are positive for 2017.

“There’s a lot to do. The Lord has been very good to us and I’m very excited about what we can do for people,” he said.

For more information on the Clark County Fuller Center for Housing, go to

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