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Editorial: Habitat fundraiser built on solid foundation

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By the end of the year, Johnson County homeowners looking to remodel will find inexpensive or unique items for sale, and their purchases will help local families in need.

Habitat for Humanity will open its own gently used home furnishings store to help pay for future construction projects. The ReStore, a fundraising tool used by almost 800 Habitat for Humanity groups across the country, will allow people to pick through cabinets, bathroom fixtures, lighting and other items for their own homes.

“We can use these proceeds to do more, to build more. It helps us to be a more vital organization in the community,” said Lee Ann Wilbur, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County.

Habitat for Humanity builds houses and sells them to families who otherwise could not afford one. The Johnson County chapter was founded in 2006 and has completed 11 houses.

The ReStore program allows chapters to sell used and new furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances to the public at a discounted price. Proceeds are used to build homes in the community.

“It’s taking all of this stuff that contractors and homeowners don’t want anymore and keeping it out of the landfill,” Wilbur said. “Then the proceeds come back into the affiliate.”

The volunteer-driven store will have two sections. One will be a drop-off center, where homeowners or contractors can bring their older items that are no longer wanted. The other side will be the showroom.

“Each ReStore is unique to their community, so you have to figure out what will work and what will not work. It evolves, so we’ll be figuring out what people will buy and what we won’t accept as donations,” Wilbur said.

The opening of the ReStore coincides with Habitat for Humanity moving into a new, larger headquarters. Formerly located on Franklin College’s campus, the growth of the organization required officials to investigate a larger base of operation.

The decision to move was coupled with a long-term plan on the direction of Habitat for Humanity.

“It can be a great source of income. Every Habitat for Humanity affiliate looks at it as a way to make some money to support its builds,” said Doug Grant, a former board member who is helping develop the ReStore business plan. “But you have to set yourself up and be prepared. If we had tried this a few years ago, it would have been a disaster. But now we have stability. So it made sense to try it.”

The new location they chose was a combination office-warehouse on Franklin’s north side. While the space provided more room for storage, offices for volunteers and meeting space for the board of directors, it also finally gave Johnson County a suitable location to open a ReStore.

Habitat for Humanity’s board didn’t want to use money it had raised for construction projects to set up the ReStore. Instead, Wilbur sought out grants to fund the establishment of the store. The Johnson County Community Foundation was the main supporter of the ReStore with a $15,000 grant.

Opening a resale store for building supplies provides a triple bonus. First, it helps support the organization. Second, it offers consumers low-cost and often unique building items. And finally, it keeps materials out of landfills.

We wish Habitat for Humanity success in this latest endeavor. The program’s value to the community has been amply demonstrated over the years by providing affordable housing for low-income families. With the opening of the resale store, the Habitat chapter is taking another step toward long-term viability.

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