Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

Volunteering at Habitat for Humanity Indian River

Habitat for Humanity serves the community in many functions, such as building affordable housing for under-privileged families. Unbeknownst to me, Habitat for Humanity also operates “Re-Stores”; these facilities accept donations from homeowners, demolition sites, or companies and resell them to the community at large. They offer a wide variety of items, such as books, paintings, cabinets, rugs, all items equipped for home furnishing. The profit from this store goes towards habitat funds. The Vero Beach location profited nearly $1.4 million, which is astounding for a non-profit.

The first day of our service was spent at the Re-Store. I did not really know what to expect going into the Re-Store, but I was thoroughly surprised by the complexity and efficiency of the location. The store was housed in a large warehouse that mimicked a Home Depot setting (Disclaimer: this is not a plug for Babson Alumni, haha). Throughout the shift, I talked with various community members that expressed a great appreciation for the store. The community values this store because the location sells necessary housing fixtures at a discounted rate. During our time, Ben, another Babson student, brought out a complete set of kitchen cabinets from a demolished home. The entire set was sold in only two hours! This store serves as an extension of Habitat for Humanity because homeowners can furnish their completed homes with discounted materials. However, this store is not exclusive to Habitat homeowners, so the store can benefit from a larger market!

The employees and volunteers of the Re-Store truly inspired me. Madeline, who I shadowed most of the day, has worked at this store for almost three years. She also participates in Habitat builds in the surrounding areas and does so alongside her husband! The work she performs at the Re-Store center is strenuous at times because the furniture is often heavy. However, this did not deter Madeline because she works five days a week—did I mention she is 65 years old?

The most inspirational and feel-good part of the day was a story from a customer. A woman came into the store looking for building materials for a project she was working on. She was astonished to see a complete cabinet set because they had just began to re-build the kitchen For about thirty minutes, she stood guarding the cabinets from others buyers because her project partner had the funding. I was so intrigued by her gesture that I had to ask more about the project. She began to tell me her tale.
Last April, her and her husband went to pick up a peacock from a breeder. Upon arrival, she noticed the homeowner had purchased a great deal of lumber, so she asked him about the pile. The homeowner, an 87 year old WWII veteran, told her that a few months ago his home burnt down and he was going to build himself a new one. She was taken aback by his determination to rebuild that she offered to help. So, over the past few months, the woman and her husband have been donating their time to help this man rebuild.
This woman is truly going out of her way to help other community members and that greatly impressed me!

The Re-Store really serves a pivotal role in the Vero Beach community. Spending time their truly opened my eyes to the goodness of peoples’ hearts! I feel that starting our trip here really set a great tone for the remainder of the week. I will carry forward this good attitude to the build site tomorrow; I cannot wait to work at the build site tomorrow!