Americus is a city working hard to accentuate the positive. The big positive is a coordinated effort to attract a lot of tourists, and to do good work at the same time.
John Sheffield is a volunteer for the Americus Theater and Cultural Center Authority. When a real live organist is not available, he cranks up the 1928 Moller theater pipe organ with a laptop computer. No loudspeakers involved.
The organ is the centerpiece of the newly restored 1921 Rylander Theater, one of the three major tourist attractions of Americus.
Another is the Windsor Hotel , which was restored to its 1892 victorian splendor. For the first time, it is making a profit. The hotel's history includes guests such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the infamous bank robber and killer John Dillinger.
The third major attraction is the world headquarters for Habitat for Humanity. It continues to grow. The global village now under construction by volunteers is designed to let visitors see some examples of habitat homes being built in 83 nations.
College students are volunteering in droves and they come from all over. "I like being able to do good things with other people," said Habitat volunteer Brandi Bobusia, "Having fun with my friends, and knowing i am making a difference somewhere."
NewsLeader 9 spoke with one student who came all the way from German. "Usually you have military service, if not, civil service, that's the kind of alternative service. They don't really like it Germany, but i like it." said German volunteer Simon Schowalter.
Millard Fuller is founder and president of Habitat for Humanity. "We had 350 young people in Columbus early this year from 19 colleges," he said, "They worked all week long building houses for Habitat for Humanity. We now have official youth groups from 700 colleges and universities, and they are sending out students every spring to build houses. Next year, we expect more than 11,000 students will use spring break to build Habitat houses."
All ages and groups are volunteering. "I think we are seeing the emergence of a new social and religious movement that is propelling humanity to end the shame and disgrace of poverty housing." said Fuller.
Habitat is a Christian organization, but Millard Fuller said it reaches out to everyone. "The Bible I read says God's love extends to everyone. The Bible does not teach just to love your fellow Christians and nobody else. It says you should love a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu, because all are made in God's image."
Habitat has built more than 130,000 houses since its start. Fuller hopes to double and triple that in no time at all.
By Kristen Eve