Judy Fuller recycles, but she goes way beyond cans and bottles. The Waukesha, Wisc., native converted a neighborhood "eyesore" into a beautiful eco-friendly home that also helps her raise money for charity.
The city was planning to demolish an old, rusty water tower, nearly 40 feet tall and 50 feet around, that could hold 675,000 gallons of water.
The tower had sat unused and neglected for years but the demolition would cost the city about $100,000.
"So I walked up to the water department and said I wanted to buy it," Fuller said.
For $1,000, Fuller became the owner of the giant tower in 2004.
"The concrete had oxidized and it was scaling off the building and it was old porous, concrete [that] rebar was poking through," said Fuller, the owner of Pinnacle Building Inc. who exceeded her budget of $200,000 on the water tower project.
After three years of drilling, painting and renovating, the water tower was transformed into a three-floor, 6,000-square-foot designer home that looks unlike any other in this community of 65,000 people.
Taking it one step further, Fuller designed the whole house to be green, from its energy-efficient windows with shades and fans that keep it cool in summer to the radiant heat in the flooring.
Fuller saw a chance to do even more with her home's innovative design. She opened the three-bedroom, four-bath home to the public for $5 tours and gives all proceeds from admission fees to charity.
"On the first Saturday, 1,100 people came to see it," said Fuller, who has rehabbed other buildings in the area.
Fuller's eco-innovation and fund-raising efforts have made her something of a local hero.
Kathleen Strombon, who works for the Waukesha Memorial Hospital and helped organize the tours, said, "I think it's wonderful that people can take their creativity and put it to work for their local not-for-profits, and Judy really embraced the idea of opening her home."