We’ve heard the expression that even if you leave the Delta, you can’t wash the mud completely off of you — meaning, that there is something about this beguiling region that becomes part of who you are and does not shake loose, no matter where you go.
We wonder if that was the case with Bill Henderson, a quietly modest philanthropist who worked in Greenwood for 25 years, raised his two kids here and had a soft spot for the poor who are as bountiful in the region as its crops.
Before moving to Starkville in 2004, Henderson was part of an ecumenical group of committed people who worked together to get the Community Kitchen established, a soup kitchen on Johnson Street that serves lunch five days a week to those who might not get a good meal otherwise.
Unknown to many, Henderson’s involvement with helping Greenwood’s poor was resuscitated five years ago when he decided he would try — in his own small way — to address one of the most critical needs in this community: decent, affordable housing.
He created a nonprofit organization that would eventually acquire and fix up 14 residences and rent them out at no more than 25 percent of the renter’s income.
Having now moved to Hoover, Alabama, to be closer to family, the distance made it difficult for him to continue to be the good landlord, so he has donated the 14 properties to another housing-related charity, Greenwood-Leflore Fuller Center for Housing, to manage.
The Fuller Center, a spinoff of Habit for Humanity, has built more than 30 homes in this community, which are being purchased by their tenants through no-interest mortgages, and helped with other housing initiatives designed to assist the needy.
Officials with the Fuller Center say the plan is to honor the leases that Henderson had with his renters, but also to explore the possibility of converting the arrangement from a rental to a low-cost mortgage.
Fourteen units didn’t solve all of Greenwood’s housing woes, but it solved it for 14 families who would be living in much worse conditions if not for Henderson’s benevolence. He has provided a wonderful example of what one person can do who takes to heart the biblical call to help the less fortunate with their most basic needs.