From Trash To Treasure
Volume 142 NO. 3
Furniture World Magazine
As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and in the world of Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore operations, one man’s trash can mean a new home for a family. Habitat for Humanity is most known for the more than 500,000 houses that its volunteers have built around the world since 1976. What is not as well-known about the non-profit organization is that it is also in the furniture business through its 825 ReStore retail locations throughout the United States and Canada.
By Russell Bienenstock
Habitat’s ReStore locations are independently owned and operated by the local Habitat for Humanity affiliates. Most stores accept new and gently-used building materials and household goods. Many of the donations come from the public, however as the three ReStore locations in Louisville, Kentucky are learning, the area’s independent and franchised furniture stores are helping them spread the word, and even making valuable donations themselves.
Cultivating Furniture Store Relationships
Karen Garris, Donor Relations Manager for ReStore in Louisville, says that, “We have had a relationship with many of the furniture stores for several years now and many of the calls that I get each week are from people who have been referred to us by one of our furniture store or home design center partners.”
Garris knows almost all of the store managers at the local furniture stores by name and visits many of them on a monthly basis. “I bring them more brochures about ReStore and remind them of talking points for their customer service representatives on how the Habitat donation program works,” says Garris.
The Louisville Habitat ReStores have a centralized Donation Hotline where pickups for larger pieces of furniture can be scheduled. “If a customer has a sofa they need to get rid of before their new couch is delivered, we encourage them to call Habitat to arrange a donation,” explains Heidi Coleman, Customer Service Manager for KHF Holdings, LLC. KHF Holdings LLC is based in Louisville, Kentucky and is the licensee of five Ashley Furniture HomeStores in Louisville, KY and Indianapolis, IN. “It’s definitely a win, win, win for all of us. Our store gains the sale of a new piece of furniture, the customer gets their old piece of furniture picked up at no charge and Habitat for Humanity gets the money from the sale of the piece of used furniture.”
Other stores, such as Haverty’s in Louisville find that Habitat’s ReStore program is a great option for customers since the national chain’s closest inventory warehouse is 150 miles away. “We used to have a warehouse right here in Louisville,” explains Don Hall, Branch Manager of Haverty’s Louisville Showroom. “However, when we eliminated this warehouse, we had no place to store our customers’ old furniture before we disposed of it. With Habitat, not only are we still able to offer our customers a pick-up option, the slightly used furniture is not being disposed of. It is being reused for a great cause, which we are very proud of.”
Scratch & Dent Furniture Donations
A family-owned furniture retailer that has been in business in Louisville for more than 45 years, is appreciative of Habitat’s furniture donation program for a different reason. Cherry House president and co-owner, Leslie Whitehouse, says that she has been able to directly donate furniture to Habitat ReStore that may have manufacturer defects or scratches and dents caused by shipping. “Often, we will receive a full manufacturer’s credit for a wooden cabinet that may have a scratch in it or for a leather recliner with a defective mechanism if we show a receipt that we have donated the item,” says Whitehouse. “It’s great for us because Habitat ReStore brings their truck directly to our warehouse to pick the item up. It saves us a lot of time and really helps our business.”
Whitehouse also explains that she likes the reliability of Habitat ReStore donations and the fact that she and her employees know that the items are going to an organization that is helping people in the community. She says, “it gives us a great deal of pride.”
Communities Feel the Ripple Effects
The benefits of Habitat’s ReStore program extend even beyond the dollars that are generated from the sale of the gently-used furniture. In Louisville alone, it is estimated that 2,000,000 pounds of usable materials are kept out of the landfill each year through the ReStore program. ReStore also creates what are called ‘sweat equity’ opportunities for Habitat partner families who must complete 400 hours before closing on their new home.
“Each Habitat ReStore is an incredibly unique shopping experience,” says Drew Meyer, Senior Director of ReStore and Gifts In Kind Support at Habitat’s home office in Atlanta, Georgia. “Some of the ReStore locations are in busy suburban shopping centers and others are in warehouses in industrial parks. The most important thing is that the Habitat ReStore operations help to provide a unique and sustainable income stream for the important work that each Habitat affiliate does in their city.”
Getting Furniture Retailers Involved: Questions & Answers
Furniture World asked Drew Meyer, Senior Director of ReStore and Gifts In Kind Support at Habitat For Humanity to answer specific questions about the ReStore program, and to describe how retailers and other industry players can support Habitat For Humanity’s good works.
Question: How is the money used, and what programs benefit?
Answer: Money generated from the sale of donated products at our ReStore are used to build homes and hope in the local community. In the last several years we have expanded our services to include rehabbing, painting, landscaping and weatherizing existing homes. We call this work home preservation.
Question: How many ReStores are there in the US and where are they located?
Answer: We have 800 ReStores across the country. Anyone can Google “Habitat for Humanity ReStores” and find the address and phone number of their local store. The ReStore Manager is always eager to work with local businesses to build awareness and hopefully secure donations.
Question: Are there other ways that Furniture World readers can get involved with Habitat For Humanity?
Answer: There are a number of ways retailers and manufacturers can get involved with Habitat. They may choose to financially sponsor the construction of a home and get their associates and business partners involved with volunteering to build the house. A retailer may decide they would like to work with Habitat on a “Cause Marketing Campaign” in which they ask their customers to donate an amount when they purchase a product, and they may choose to match the customer’s donation or a part of the purchase price of the product that is purchased.
Question: What are some of the major reasons why furniture retailers might want to support Habit at For Humanity's community based programs?
Answer: Habitat for Humanity provides one of the most critical elements to the safety, security and wellbeing of a family -- a home. With the help of our donors and volunteers we have the ability to eliminate the cycle of poverty in one generation. This work is accomplished in the communities your readers live and work in around the country.
Question: Retailers often like to support efforts in their local communities. How can Furniture World retailers find out about, and possibly tie into local initiatives?
Answer: Retailers can get involved locally by contacting local Habitat Affiliates and/or their ReStores. These folks are always interested in working on creative and worthwhile projects.
Question: If a customer calls to have goods picked up, are there minimum standards?
Answer:The fact that ReStores pick up donations is a real advantage for furniture stores. We do have some minimum standards. We do not accept furniture that is worn, stained or has odors.
Question: Is there anything else we missed in this interview?
Answer: The idea of a virtuous circle seems to resonate with donors and customers. When a person, organization or corporations donate products or materials, they keep these items out of the waste stream and landfills. ReStores keep thousands of tons of useable items out of landfills across the country each year. The customer who buys these products gets a real bargain and the funds generated by the sale go right back into changing lives and building hope in the community. What could be better?
More Information: To learn how you can get involved with the Habitat for Humanity ReStores, contact Drew Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-420-6762.
About Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit ecumenical Christian housing ministry that builds simple and affordable homes in partnership with those in need of decent housing. Families purchase the houses at no profit, through interest-free loans.
Families also invest hundreds of hours of their own “sweat-equity” labor into their houses. Their monthly mortgage payments help fund the construction of more houses.
The Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville affiliate began in 1985. Since then, over 5,000 volunteers have worked alongside families to complete more than 370 Habitat homes in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information, please visit www.louisvillehabitat.org.
KHF Holdings LLC is based in Louisville, Kentucky and is the licensee of five Ashley Furniture HomeStores in Louisville and Indianapolis. Current locations include Outer Loop/ Jefferson-Pavilion, KY; Jeffersontown, KY; Avon, IN; Greenwood, IN; Indianapolis [Castleton], IN; and an Ashley Furniture Distribution Center.
Russell Bienenstock is Editor-in-Chief of Furniture World Magazine, founded 1870. Comments can be directed to him at email@example.com.
Read other articles by Russell Bienenstock