The Role of the ReStore

Posted by Lauren
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By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director

As I was researching this month’s blog, I found all sorts of articles about donating items to charity – the do’s and don’ts, the eight items charities need, how to give to a cause, etc. They were all well-written articles, and as I read them I noticed a theme appearing that certainly resonated with me and the ReStore team.  In culling through them, I found that each author addressed a concern that some ReStore donors face when they call to schedule a donation pick-up.

Habitat is very grateful for those individuals who choose to donate to the store – we know that you have many options. We are very happy to make it as convenient as possible, providing a free pick-up service, convenient drop-off hours and a list of acceptable items on our website and in our brochure. 

At times, when donors learn that the ReStore will not take a particular item due to age or condition, they become frustrated with Habitat for Humanity.  Sometimes they feel that the organization should be willing to take all items offered. In a perfect world, we would, but the reality is that we cannot take everything given – nor should we, if we want to fulfill our mission.

I know it might be a little shocking to hear a charitable organization say this, but please hear me out. Habitat’s mission provides dignity for those in need of housing by creating partnerships that empower people to help themselves. The homes we build are affordable and simply built, but they are also beautiful and functional. This philosophy of providing dignity to those in need spills over to our ReStore as well. We want to honor each customers’ dignity by providing a shopping experience that allows them to find something beautiful and functional to complement or improve their living space.

Each time we accept donations that are broken, torn or significantly aged, we are not able to sell them. Believe me, we’ve tried.  Instead, these items sit on the sales floor, taking up much needed space for treasures that sell quickly so that we might use the funding to build or repair more homes in the community. After a time, these items end up in the dumpster, contributing to a $5,000 yearly trash disposal cost. That is $5,000 that could repair an elderly person’s roof or provide a kitchen in a new home.

The ReStore is a great resource for donors to provide a second home to items they no longer want or use.  Whether you are looking to donate gently used or new building materials or furniture, we are happy to take these items and resell them at a fraction of their retail value. The model is really a win-win for everyone. People are able to give away items and give them a new home while getting a tax-deduction.  Shoppers are able to find a treasure that is new to them. The environment wins too - another item is kept out of the waste stream. Instead, ReStore can give it a new life and a new home. In fact, over the life of the ReStore, Habitat has diverted 1.8 million pounds of materials from the waste stream.

I hope that I have communicated the need to preserve both the dignity of our shoppers and the generosity of our donors as effectively as the other articles I’ve referenced. We truly appreciate the donations of gently used and surplus building materials, appliances, furniture, and cabinetry we receive. I believe the communities we serve appreciate those items as well – each one provides a shopper with a treasure, but it also moves a family closer to owning a home, or a senior closer to having a safe place in which to age gracefully, or a community a little closer to a higher quality of life.