Offering a hand up…not a hand out
Published 4:37 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, home accessories, electronics, books, children’s games/toys, and appliances to the public at a fraction of the retail price.
ReStores are proudly owned and operated by local Habitat for Humanity affiliates, and proceeds are used to build homes, community, and hope locally and around the world.
There is such a place locally….on Main Street in downtown Murfreesboro adjacent to El Ranchero Mexican Restaurant.
Hertford County Habitat for Humanity receives the majority of its funding through the sales at the Restore in Murfreesboro. Prior to its opening, the local organization struggled to maintain much of a cash flow, which greatly impacted its mission of working with local first-time homeowners to improve their quality of life.
The board of directors of Hertford County Habitat for Humanity took their own leap of faith in 2013 when they purchased and renovated an old store at 117 West Main Street in Murfreesboro (built in the 1920’s and initially housed a textile mill before being the home of a car dealership) and converted it into their ReStore. Prior to that, the ReStore operated inside cramped quarters at a smaller building a few blocks north of the current location.
Like a majority of older commercial buildings that sit unoccupied for decades, the Murfreesboro location had numerous structural issues. Through the work of numerous volunteers and thanks to donated material, Hertford County Habitat for Humanity was able to make repairs and get the building in tip-top shape.
Not only does the local ReStore offer quality merchandise at 50-to-75 percent below retail prices, it also keeps those items from one day winding up in a landfill. They will accept most any type of household items, excluding clothes, old TVs, mattresses, and cribs.
While the ReStore has many happy customers who return repeatedly in their search for top quality items, the real satisfaction is in the hearts and souls of the local Habitat’s volunteers. They give of their time and efforts to collect the donated items in an effort to keep the shelves stocked. They also keep the doors open to those seeking bargains. According to the Hertford County Habitat for Humanity Facebook page, the Murfreesboro ReStore is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
While Hertford County Habitat does receive funding from other sources, without the money generated by the ReStore, it would be an uphill battle for the local organization to remain viable. They feel blessed by the generosity of local citizens who have donated items for them to sell.
Alice Sharpe, along with help from the late Dr. Hargus Taylor, started up the Hertford County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity back in 1989. Sharpe was inspired after attending a workshop featuring the organization’s founder and hearing about the work they were doing to provide housing for those in need. She knew Hertford County didn’t have the resources of bigger cities like Charlotte, for example, where they were building 10 houses a week at the time.
After working to get Hertford County Habitat its 501 3C tax-exempt status to begin its work as a non-profit group, the organization’s directors contacted all the churches in the local area to get them on board.
Another requirement by the national Habitat office was for the Hertford County affiliate to initially raise $1,500 in “good faith money.” They met that goal by selling donuts and hot dogs, and soliciting donations from businesses and churches.
Hertford County Habitat’s first building project was launched in 1992 on a lot in Winton donated by county officials. That family moved in the following year.
“When we complete a house, we hold a celebration for the family to dedicate the house. It’s a very emotional event, a feeling you cannot express,” Sharpe said in an earlier interview with this newspaper.
Sharpe and the other Hertford County Habitat for Humanity volunteers always stress that their mission isn’t a hand out, but rather a hand up. During the construction process, the family is required to invest “sweat equity” – meaning they are required to put in 550 hours of volunteer work in their home and then agree to help other Habitat families to build their homes. They also have a monthly mortgage to pay, only without taxes or interest.
Since its founding, nearly 10 Habitat homes have been built in Hertford County.
Sharpe said while although the income generated from sales at the ReStore accounts for the lion’s share of the money needed for building projects, there’s always room for more.
“We need donations of time and money,” she said. “We’re always seeking volunteers to help us build. Please note that you do not have to be a builder…we need volunteers to paint, to hang sheetrock, install windows, etc. It’s not just about building houses, it’s about teaching people new skills. We encourage more of our local citizens to become involved. We need volunteers.”
Founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in approximately 70 countries. Habitat’s vision is of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
For more information about Habitat for Humanity locally, call the Murfreesboro ReStore at 252-396-0696 or visit their Facebook page “Habitat for Humanity of Hertford County.”
Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-332-7207.