Kensington: Volunteers are Main Faces Behind Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Volunteer Bryant Corley (right) drives an hour every Saturday to help out at ReStore.]

Volunteer Bryant Corley (right) drives an hour every Saturday to help out at ReStore.
Volunteer Bryant Corley (right) drives an hour every Saturday to help out at ReStore.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a second-hand retail outlet in Kensington, primarily donates back to the community by helping build homes. However, ReStore also gives back by giving individuals and organizations a platform for volunteering.

“We are very much a volunteer-run organization,” Javier Lanchang, store manager of Habitat for Humanity ReStore, said. “They do everything from prepping the material to unloading the truck to helping us go to pick-ups.”

ReStore, located at 2930 Jasper St., only has five employees operating the 19,000 square-foot warehouse. Everyone else is a volunteer. At any given time, there are about 20 to 40 volunteers in the store.

“People can come here and sort and dust…We kind of have something for everybody,” Greg Bradley, volunteer coordinator at ReStore, said. “We can have people greet customers and help out in front. People can clean and organize. We also need a lot of muscle.”

With a mixture of individuals and organizations, volunteers are the main reason why Habitat for Humanity ReStore is clean, organized and essentially, running. Last month, 266 people volunteered, totaling 1,203 hours of service.

Volunteers first sign in upon arriving and then are given a task in the store.
Volunteers first sign in upon arrival and then are given a task in the store.

On April 27, six volunteers from the Philadelphia chapter of One Brick came to help out at ReStore for four hours.

“This is really unique that we’re working when the Restore is open,” Melissa Gerding, event manager for One Brick, said. “It’s a regular day in the community and we can actually touch and see Philadelphia and Kensington and see how we’re giving back.”

This was the second time One Brick Philadelphia, a non-profit organization with over 200 members, volunteered at ReStore.

“We brought in all the entertainment centers and china cabinets the last time we were here,” Gerding said about helping out on January 5. “It’s kind of nice that we come back…I’ve noticed tables that I moved– one just sold today.”

In addition to One Brick, 15 students from Drexel’s Civic Engagement class came to ReStore later on in the day to put in four out of the eight-hour community service requirement.

“It encourages kids to come out and see other parts of the city and give back,” Bradley said. “It’s a little bit of an awakening for a lot of students who are from other areas and unfamiliar with city issues.”

As soon as the group of freshmen arrived, Bradley broke them up into teams and gave them various tasks both inside and outside of the ReStore warehouse.

“I guess the idea of helping rebuilding homes in Philadelphia just appealed to me [more] than the other service sites I could choose, that’s why I picked this one,” biology student Nikil Revuri, who helped paint a rusty fence, said.

Deborah Kosak from One Brick is able to use her retail experience to test donated electronics.
Deborah Kosak from One Brick is able to use her retail experience to test donated electronics.

Other than Saturday, an organization is in ReStore almost every day of their operating schedule. A life skills special education class from the Philadelphia School District and an alternative high school come in twice a week.

“One of the groups I’m most proud of over the last year is a local high school, El Centro [de Estudiantes],” Bradley said. “They have internships where they come here twice a week and work with us doing various building projects and also just general kind of work in our warehouse.”

El Centro de Estudiantes, located in Kensington, provides students who have dropped out of high-school with internships, which they use for project-based learning.

“One of the primary reasons is they have sort of a parallel mission to ours about serving the community and they were really excited to work with our students so it was a really good fit,” Co-Director Philip Price said about choosing Habitat for Humanity. “Our students really needed a place that was dynamic and collaborative community environment and we certainly found that in the ReStore.”

Eight students ages 15 to 22 from El Centro, currently working 10 hours per week, are helping ReStore put together a kinetic sculpture for the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby on May 18, among other tasks.

“They love meeting the customers… the furniture rehabilitation and repair part of the work,” Price said about the students’ admiration for ReStore. “Many of them really like sort of moving the furniture around, pricing it, placing it in the store and the idea of learning about server retail business in a home goods store.”

ReStore Development VISTA Greg Bradley is in charge of all the volunteers.
ReStore Development VISTA Greg Bradley is in charge of all the volunteers.

Apart from organizations, anyone can sign-up to volunteer at ReStore. US Airways, for example, partners with Habitat for Humanity to send volunteers to ReStore at least once a month.

“It’s unlimited on how we could use people. Every little bit helps,” Bradley said. “We definitely truly appreciate it and make it a point to try to spend time and connect with people and joke. That little extra effort makes a difference.”

Workers at Habitat for Humanity ReStore not only make sure volunteers know they are appreciated, they also highlight a volunteer each month to recognize his or her effort in the store.

“When I come here, I usually help organize, lift things, bring things back for people to pick up… I try to do as much as possible. Anything that’s asked of me I pretty much do it,” Bryant Corley, who is a full-time worker from Lancaster, Pa., said about his weekly commitment to ReStore.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. To learn more about volunteering, click here to visit their website.]

Kensington: Habitat for Humanity ReStore Made Possible Through Donations 

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