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ReStore Road Trip

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Habitat for Humanity’s resale outlets are treasure hunts where good finds fund good work.

You never know what you’re going to find in a Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Furniture, appliances, building materials, windows from a governor’s mansion. Maybe a new chandelier made out of an antique wagon wheel?

ReStores exist to support Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. While every ReStore is a little different, they all accept donated goods which are sold to the general public at a fraction of the retail price. The proceeds help local Habitat affiliates build homes within their communities. In 2011, U.S. ReStores raised enough money to build the equivalent of 770 homes, keeping more than 149,500 tons of material out of landfills in the process.

“Whether you raise the walls on a Habitat house, buy a new bathroom vanity at the ReStore or donate your old sofa for resale, the end result is the same,” says Frank Reed, Habitat for Humanity International’s senior director of ReStore operations. “More families in decent housing.”

A pretty good reason to volunteer, donate and … shop. With more than 840 ReStores across the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia — and Europe’s first slated to open in Belfast, Northern Ireland — there truly is no telling what you’ll come across.

The Life Cycle of a ReStore Item

See how even a donated doorknob can help Habitat do more.

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Fact: In 2010, 96 of the 230 Habitat houses built throughout Canada were made possible by ReStores — and an estimated 20,000 tons of usable materials were saved from landfills.

In 1991, Habitat Winnipeg’s founding chairman Jake Pauls was working out of a church basement in the affiliate’s first office. He began to wonder: “How can Habitat be more self-sufficient and create a steady source of income while at the same time salvage reusable building materials?”

His answer: Habitat’s first-ever ReStore.

Initially, the shop mostly sold used lumber. As materials and space became available, the store filled with cabinets, doors and all the staples that ReStores have become known for. Today, Habitat Winnipeg’s ReStore boasts 20,000 square feet of retail space, and its staff counts 114 years of combined retail experience.

Moorhead, Minnesota

Fact: Good buys aren’t the only things you will find at a ReStore. Good advice abounds, too.

The staff of Lake Agassiz Habitat offers their shoppers a valuable ReStore primer: “Top Five Ways To Improve Your Space Without Breaking the Bank!”

No. 1: Paint. Let’s face it. Bland beige walls lack character, but sometimes blotching out the boring isn’t feasible for $35 a gallon of paint. The ReStore carries a large variety of mismatched paint that’s priced affordably.

No. 2: Hardware. Stuck with a doorknob that doesn’t lock and hinges that squeak? Hardware at the ReStore varies from nickel-plated pulls and knobs to quirky retro pieces that can liven up your space.

No. 3: Front Door. The front door of your home is usually one of the first things that guests notice. It’s also one of the biggest ways to lose valuable energy! The ReStore has a huge selection to help you improve your home’s look and efficiency.

No. 4: Storage. It seems like there’s never enough space for all your stuff, right? The ReStore carries a wide variety of storage solutions, including wood and metal cabinetry and office furniture. Or low-priced lumber so you can create your own storage!

No. 5: Lighting. Exterior fixtures are a great way to improve the facade of your home. Depending on the day, the ReStore may have anything from an elaborate chandelier to a colorful ceiling fan for a child’s room!

Davenport, Iowa

Find: Wagon-wheel chandeliers

The pair of antique wagon wheels-turned-chandeliers that found their way to Habitat Quad Cities’ ReStore originally came from Davenport’s historic Blackhawk Hotel.

A couple snatched up one wheel for $125 to go in a cathedral-ceilinged house their son is remodeling. The other wheel, for $100, went to the proprietor of an Illinois bar and grill called The Wagon Wheel.

The wheel chandeliers aren’t the only unique items uncovered in this ReStore. There’s also been an antique stained-glass skylight; a child’s bed shaped like a fire truck, replete with siren and lights; and giant slabs of marble from a renovation of the bathrooms at John Deere’s nearby world headquarters.

Wagon-wheel chadeliers

Photo Courtesy Habitat Quad Cities