Lymphoma survivor finds fun, purpose in her Habitat work
by KATIE RINAUDO Volunteer Development VISTA
Mar 31, 2014 | 810 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LOLA FULLER, a 64-year-old mother of three and grandmother of eight, relies on the Habitat for Humanity ReStores to give her a sense of purpose through volunteerism. Contributed Photo
LOLA FULLER, a 64-year-old mother of three and grandmother of eight, relies on the Habitat for Humanity ReStores to give her a sense of purpose through volunteerism. Contributed Photo

Sixty-four year old Lola Fuller is a mother of three and grandmother of eight. A Cleveland resident for more than three decades, Fuller currently lives with her husband and mother, and is a lymphoma survivor.

While most people in her position would take a well-deserved break, Fuller can’t stand the thought of sitting around at home.

She loves to laugh. She also loves to help other people.

She wanted to find somewhere she could do both. So, in January 2013, Fuller started volunteering at the ReStores of Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, a local nonprofit organization.

The local Habitat affiliate is dedicated to eliminating poverty and homelessness. Since the organization’s establishment in 1991, it has partnered with low-income working families, churches, sponsors and communities to build decent, affordable housing.

Habitat has two ReStores in Bradley County, one at 300 Grove Ave. S.W. and one at 4605 North Lee Highway. The ReStores accept donations from businesses and individuals of new and gently used items ranging from clothing to appliances to building materials.

The items in the ReStores are for sale to the public, and all profits from the ReStores go directly to Habitat of Cleveland to build homes for qualified families in Bradley County. Cleveland’s two ReStores helped fund the infrastructure and the foundation of the 113 homes that have been built so far in Bradley County.

For Fuller, the decision to volunteer was easy.

“I started because I needed an outlet,” she said. “I needed to get away from the house and be active. I needed something to do.”

By the summer, she was volunteering daily at the Habitat ReStore off North Lee Highway. She currently helps to sort, clean, price and restock merchandise and donations for resale.

“We love Lola,” Habitat ReStores’ Director Paulette Smart said. “She spends several days a week sorting through clothes and other items that come in, so she’s invaluable.”

Fuller said she needs Habitat as much as the nonprofit needs her.

“I needed that in my life because I was going through a really hard time,” she noted. “My dad was sick for a year. He was in the nursing home ... [and then he] died last year.”

Volunteering at Habitat gives her an outlet for feeling useful by helping people. It also gives her a means for relaxing and enjoying herself in the company of other volunteers who share her passion for Habitat for Humanity.

Although she believes strongly in giving back to the community, Fuller does not feel as though her service is too much of a sacrifice. To be honest, “I’m being selfish,” she said with a laugh. “This is fun! It’s not work. It’s just absolute fun!”

“Lola has such a great attitude and a great personality,” Smart stressed. “We all just love her.”

According to research by the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteering has many benefits for people over 55 years old. Senior volunteers experience positive physical and psychological health benefits, including lower rates of depression and other diseases.

She and the Habitat staff, Fuller explained, are always “... just cutting up and laughing; [I love to] get people involved and having fun, help them forget what their troubles are. I like going to a place where people just are really friendly.”

For Fuller, volunteering is an integral part of her life, and one she plans to continue as long as she can.

“I just like to walk in and have a good time,” Fuller said. “Then I go home and I just think about coming back the next day!”

Volunteers are the foundation of the ReStores. Opportunities are available for procurement, receiving, merchandising, customer service and cashiers at both ReStores.

Those interested in volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, should call the nonprofit’s Volunteer Services Department at 473-4610, ext. 202, or sign up online at