Rows of marble and porcelain sinks were lined up, polished and ready to be bought and installed in a new home.
Cabinets ranging from deep cherry wood to light tan were stacked off to the side of the Franklin warehouse. Silver- and gold-colored faucets, light fixtures and other hardware were piled in other areas.
Contractors, homeowners and other donors have been dropping off the items for months. For the time being, the items are being stored in Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County’s operating center.
But before the end of the year, each will be available to people looking for a cheap upgrade or remodel to their homes.
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 throughout the country, will allow people to pick through cabinets, bathroom fixtures, lighting and other items for their own homes.
While finding inexpensive ways to spruce up their own houses, local residents can help provide a home for area families in need.
“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 branch of the 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.”
‘Unique to the community’
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. Everything from washers and dryers to sliding glass doors to heating and cooling systems will be available to purchase.
One supporter recently dropped off an electric fireplace for Habitat for Humanity to sell.
“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.
Seed money sprouts
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.
“For us, we try to make sure we cover the entire county with our grants. We know that Habitat for Humanity has been doing one or two builds each year,” said Gail Richards, executive director of the Johnson County Community Foundation. “Our goal was to give them some seed money to do this ReStore, to raise more revenue to do more builds, and help more people throughout the county.”
The Old National Foundation also provided a grant of $5,000, and other donations have been made as well. With more than $20,000 to purchase signs, cash registers, shelving and other business supplies, Wilbur hopes to have the ReStore open in four to six months.
Local chapters have to have approval from international Habitat for Humanity officials to open a ReStore. Wilbur and the Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County board have been filling out forms, providing business plans and demonstrating that the ReStore will be well organized and support itself.
“They really encourage ReStores because they understand how much it helps the local affiliates,” Wilbur said. “But they don’t want it to be like a garage sale. You have to show stability. It’s like opening a small business.”