Walking into the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, customers are immediately welcomed into the living room area. Not just one living room, but almost a dozen living room sets are neatly decorated and organized. On the other side of the room, a row of dedicated volunteers greet shoppers and make them feel right at home.
One of those smiling volunteers is Audrey Elaine Coleman, a mother of four and a member of Habitat for Humanity’s Partner Families. The Partner Family Program matches families to affordable homes which are all built by Habitat. After an extensive application process, those who are selected work off 350 sweat equity hour. In wages these hours total between $7,000-$9,000 and once they are completed it pays off the down-payment for their new homes.
Coleman has been with ReStore since the day it opened on Sep. 10, 2011. She cut the usual 24 months process in half by devoting all her time to Habitat by volunteering on builds and most of her hours were completed at ReStore, where she now works as a full-time volunteer. Patiently waiting to be matched to a house, she is the perfect example of Habitat for Humanity’s ultimate goal, which is to reuse goods and get them back out into the community and turn that profit into homes.
Just as the store gives back to the local community of Kensington and the greater area of Philadelphia, Coleman is doing this in her own way by continuing to give back her time and help to the organization that has done so much for her.
“I think we play a major part in the community because a lot of people around here are fixing up their homes and they don’t have to go far and they can get it half off right here,” said Coleman. “It’s a recycling thing, people shop and then they donate and then buy and donate back. It all goes to a really great cause that has helped so many people out, just like me.”
ReStore originally began as a garage sale in a construction warehouse on 19th and Montgomery Streets. The garage sale quickly started to grow as it gained popularity in the neighborhood and had to move to a larger location, a 19,000 square-foot warehouse located at 2930 Jasper St. With the help of the Fox School of Business at Temple University, they set up a successful business plan that has local residents and visitors coming back to donate and shop.
“Any type of re-gentrification can be great for this area because it has a lot of potential,” said Linda Fellag, a shopper from Glenside, Pa. “It has a lot of potential. They have a lot of high quality new items and it’s not just dollar store junk, it’s good stuff like brand name things.”
Everything in the store is up to 50 percent off of retailer’s price, with special deals every two weeks. From couches to crock-pots and doggie beds to door knobs, ReStore has anything and practically everything for your home. Many of the items are donated by the public and most of the merchandise comes from corporate sponsors and events.
“In September we got a very large donation from True Value hardware because Philly hosted their convention,” said Gail Lankford, director of ReStore. “Over 600 palates of merchandise was donated to us. It was a huge undertaking but think of how all of that merchandise would have gone to waste. We are also helping to keep all of that stuff out of landfills.”
Associated Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, Corrinne O’Connell estimates Habitat for Humanity has salvaged 120 tons of waste from landfills.
Not only does ReStore recycle the merchandise back into the community and keep waste out of landfills but every purchase is a donation to Habitat for Humanity, the group uses that money to continue to build houses in the greater Philadelphia area and plan on extending their homes to the Kensington area.
Getting ready to leave ReStore, Coleman came to the front of the store with tears in her eyes. All of her patience and hard work has paid off. She had just received a call from Habitat for Humanity who informed her that she had finally been matched to a house.
“See, I am proof of how great this organization is for people who can’t do it on their own. You get to provide a healthy and safe environment for your children and be a home owner and teach them how to be a home owner,” Coleman said. “It gives you strength at the end of the day.”