March 3, 2012 7:16:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
For most of us, recycling is a matter of getting newspapers, plastic containers and glass bottles in the right bin, and then feeling pretty good about doing our small part. But in a big, blue metal warehouse on Starkville's North Montgomery Street, Habitat for Humanity takes recycling to another level.
"Kitchen cabinets, ceiling fans, light fixtures, stoves, bathroom vanities, doors ... we even get paint," listed Peggy Branch, office manager of Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity. All these items, and many more, are for sale to the public one Saturday morning each month at the organization's Resale Store.
Part fundraiser, part green initiative, Habitat's "ReStore" outlets around the country sell donated reusable and surplus building materials, gently-used appliances, furniture and home accessories to the public at a fraction of retail price. All proceeds help local affiliates fund construction of Habitat homes in their communities. The concept provides an environmentally and socially responsible way to keep reusable materials out of the waste stream. And ReStore outlets provide a valuable source of affordable household items for community families.
"Rather than throw usable things away when people are remodeling or replacing things in their home, they can donate it to the Resale Store, and somebody else will buy it to install in a house or camphouse ... so we're keeping a good bit of material out of landfills," said Freddie Rasberry, executive director of the Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity.
Branch added, "We basically take anything (except clothing), as long as it is operational. Lately we've even gotten in a few computers, fax machines and printers."
The Starkville Resale Store is entirely volunteer run and donation driven. It's also one of only two Habitat for Humanity "ReStore" outlets in Mississippi, according to the directory at habitat.org/restores/.
The Starkville store currently generates approximately $10,000 for Habitat home builds.
"Absolutely every penny donated items make at the Resale Store goes into the building of a Habitat house. One hundred percent ... not many nonprofits can say that," said Rasberry, who retired from Mississippi State University in 2001. He now relishes his responsibilities as the Starkville area's Habitat director.
Habitat's mission inspires volunteers, like Ross Collins and the long-standing support team of Ricky Hubbard, Terry Kellum, Jimmy McKell, Richard Mullenax, Allan Tucker and Jim Wilson. These men, along with newer volunteers, are at the core of the Resale Store's efficient operation.
They coordinate delivery of donations (and pick-up, when necessary) and store inventory. They also operate the store from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. the first Saturday of every month. They even collect scrap metal.
"We're looking for every opportunity to generate dollars to go toward defraying Habitat's expense in building a home," said the energetic Ross.
Volunteers also feel good about providing very usable materials and furnishings to the public at extremely reasonable prices. A working stove might go for $40 or under, for example. Several nice sofas have been donated and quickly sold, as well.
"If we can sell somebody something at a price they can afford that might improve the quality of their life a little bit, there's a real degree of satisfaction in that," said Ross.
Better than receiving
The store's success also hinges directly on tax deductible donations of items from the community. Some inventory comes from building stores that donate discontinued or display items. Much of the evolving inventory comes from individuals.
Wanda and Mike Thorne of Starkville are longtime active donors to the Resale Store.
"I'm really into decorating, and we've added to our house five times over the years," explained Wanda Thorne. "Every time we've ever done anything, we've donated what we could to the store."
Those items have included a freezer, sinks, refrigerators, dining room chairs, carpet, rug pads, an oriental rug -- even chain link fencing.
"We think it's a really good thing for Habitat for Humanity," stated Thorne. "It serves a good purpose. It's something we believe in."
Kathy Arinder, executive director of the Columbus Lowndes Habitat for Humanity, hopes to soon add Columbus to the list of affiliates with a ReStore.
"We're working toward that goal. We don't know when that will be, but now that we've moved to our new location (Highway 69 South, near Omnova) that has a warehouse, we'd be able to take donations -- something we couldn't do in the past," stated Arinder, adding that the offer of volunteer-power to organize and help run such a facility would be a welcome boost.
The nationwide Habit for Humanity program is very green-oriented, Arinder noted. "They're really encouraging all affiliates to consider a resale store and offering training on how to run them."
There is no shortage of need for the dollars generated by the Starkville Habitat Resale Store; the organization breaks ground on two new houses today.
Spring cleaning offers an ideal opportunity to find something to donate to the store, said Branch, who previously worked with Rasberry at MSU.
"And now we're pulling in all our friends," Rasberry laughed. "We're just all a big, happy family group doing something good for the community."
In the eight years Rasberry, and shortly after, Branch, have been on board, the agency has built 16 houses.
"That's over 50 children that have been put in a stable home," the director emphasized. "There's probably half a dozen of those home owners who have gone back to college, too. Once you stabilize the home, you've done a lot to give people the opportunity to do something with their lives."
And that's something worth recycling for.
(Editor's note: To donate items to the Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity Resale Store, contact Branch at 662-324-7008, or email [email protected] A donation voucher is provided for tax purposes. Learn more at starkvillehabitat.com.)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.