With the completion of The Habitat Store’s new warehouse, staff and volunteers are hoping to attract customers looking to not just furnish their homes, but also to remodel or even build them from the ground up.
“We have a ‘man cave’ next door,” Habitat’s volunteer coordinator Jaime Arnett said.
The 6,000-square-foot warehouse, located right beside the store at 1385 Admiral Place in Ferndale, opened Jan. 28. It sells donated building and home-remodeling materials including tiles, toilets, sinks, flooring and windows.
The Habitat Store, which opened September 2009, is operated by Habitat for Humanity Whatcom County.
John P.C. Moon, Habitat’s executive director, said the organization receives regular offers for building-material donations, but the donations don’t always suit the needs of Habitat’s house-building projects. The warehouse provides people with another opportunity to support the organization, Moon said.
“This is a way to accept the gifts and keep the donors connected to our mission,” he said.
The nonprofit, which is affiliated with Habitat for Humanity International but operates independently, has built 32 homes for families in need since its founding in 1987. It plans to build between two and four more by 2013, Moon said.
Moon said the eventual goal is to have the proceeds from store sales cover the organization’s overhead costs.
Arnett said the store operates with a six-person volunteer staff. The nonprofit also employs five full-time positions.
Furniture, particularly couches, recliners and end tables, is the store’s biggest seller, she said.
Volunteer Tyla Reeves, who’s been on the staff since June 2011, said the store is a great place to find used furniture, especially for people starting out in a new home or apartment.
Reeves said she handles a variety of tasks as a volunteer, including helping with furniture pickups, handling sales and pricing items.
“It’s a fun environment,” Reeves said. “I like meeting the families that come in.”
The Habitat Store prices donated items at about 50 percent retail value. Arnett said prices on unsold items are marked down every six weeks they remain on the showroom floor. On the final Saturday of each month, the store holds a major discount sale.
The sales are very popular with local bargain hunters, Arnett said.
“We literally have people waiting at the door at 9 a.m. to get their prizes,” she said.
Moon said Habitat’s main purpose is to try to alleviate poverty by providing stable housing.
The organization does not give away homes. Instead, Habitat homes are sold to families at cost and financed with zero-percent mortgages.
Families make $500 down payments, put 500 hours of labor toward their homes and make monthly mortgage payments, according to the nonprofit’s website.
“Even though it works one family at a time, it really does work to bring that family out of poverty,” Moon said.
Families are selected by the group’s board of directors based on their level of need, their willingness to become partners in the program and their ability to make mortgage payments.
The international Habitat for Humanity organization was founded as a Christian housing ministry in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller. Although it is a Christian ministry, Habitat builds homes for families of all faiths and accepts volunteers of all beliefs and backgrounds, according to group’s website.
Arnett said there are many opportunities for volunteers.
“People come to volunteer for so many different reasons,” Arnett said. “If you’ve ever been out to a build site, it’s just magical.”
Emily Wagnitz, Habitat’s publicist, said the experience is positive for both the families and volunteers.
“Working with a small group of people doing a really big thing, you really get to see what you’re doing,” Wagnitz said. “We get to know these families that we’re helping.”
Moon agreed, “It just creates a lot of warm, fuzzy moments.”
Photos by Brian Corey