MAG MILE — Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller hasn't intercepted a pass yet, but he's already trying to make a difference in his new hometown.
Fuller said he wants to continue helping the charity. On Thursday, he built walls that will be used for homes in West Pullman and Lake and DuPage counties.
"Coming in, there's a lot I want to do as far as give back," Fuller said.
Habitat for Humanity, which constructs houses for low-income families to buy through zero-interest mortgages, will be in the plaza, building homes for people in West Pullman and the Chicago area through June 1 as part of its Raise Your Hand Chicagoland event. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a squad of Bears rookies stopped by Thursday, and actor Jim Belushi is scheduled to appear at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Volunteers at Pioneer Court will construct pieces for 12 homes over the weekend, and those pieces will then be transported and made into homes. A 1,200-square-foot home with three bedrooms and one bathroom was built in the plaza Thursday and will stay there throughout the weekend for passersby to tour. Signs on its interior walls thank donors and explain how Habitat for Humanity works.
Matthew Johnson, Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity CEO, said this is the first time the organization has done an event like this in Chicago. The group chose to stage the event in the the tourist- and worker-heavy Loop for increased visibility, as Johnson said only two out of 100 Chicagoans will list Habitat for Humanity if asked to name charities of which they know.
The organization hopes to expand its presence in Chicago, but Jen Parks, Windy Cindy Habitat for Humanity executive director, said the organization will stay in West Pullman for at least two more years because there is a need for the group in the neighborhood.
"We want to do much more," Johnson said. "We're here. We need more people, more donors."
The homes are not free. The families that move into them — known as partner families — pay for the houses, which cost about $100,000, with zero-interest mortgages, and they have to invest "200 to 400 hours of sweat equity" in Habitat for Humanity.
Natasha, 33, and Shomari Nicholes, 34, of East Garfield Park, have been pursuing a Habitat for Humanity house since April 2013, and volunteered at Pioneer Court Plaza on Thursday to work off some of their "sweat equity."
The Nicholeses, who are set to receive their home and move to West Pullman in August, said the couple's income puts them at just below what they would need to afford a traditional home. Natasha is a blogger and working mother and Shomari is a systems analyst.
Habitat for Humanity provides them an opportunity to achieve freedom through home ownership, Shomari Nicholes said, which makes their move from a rented home in East Garfield Park — where their families have lived for 70 years — worth it.
Natasha is already looking forward to having a garden, painting without consulting a landlord and having a garage.
"We make the decisions on what happens in the home," Shomari Nicholes said. "It's freedom."
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