Program benefits Habitat For Humanity - and keeps household items out of landfills

April 20, 2011 

Earth Day is Friday. But in our little corner of the world, Earth Day is recognized six days a week at the Habitat For Humanity Bluffton ReStore.

The not-for-profit store opened nearly nine years ago as a place for Habitat to sell furniture, light fixtures, books, home goods and hundreds of other used items in need of a new owner.

Three years ago, Habitat's regional branch launched the Deconstruction program, or DeCon, a free service to area homeowners in which Habitat construction professionals and volunteers will remove cabinets, countertops, plumbing and electrical fixtures from homes that are undergoing renovation.

Workers transport the goods to the ReStore for resale, and building debris also is hauled away.

The money raised through reselling the items is then used to renovate or build Habitat For Humanity homes in southern Beaufort County. All donations are tax-deductible.

The program has been well received by donors, buyers and the business community, said Patricia Carey Wirth, president and CEO of the Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity.

"It's a win-win all the way around," Wirth said, while walking through ReStore's DeCon warehouse, which is stocked with ovens, washers and dryers, doors and other merchandise from in and around Beaufort County. "There's no loss for anyone."

When DeCon was first offered, contractors expressed concern the service would cut into their business. That, too, has worked out, Wirth said.

"Contractors do not lose out. A home buyer says 'You know, I can get two more glass-front cabinets because I'm not paying you (contractor) to take it out. Or I can get a better grade of hardwood in my kitchen.' Contractors are making up the difference because they're selling more."

Every dollar spent at the ReStore, keeps an estimated 1.3 pounds of debris out of the landfills, according to Habitat For Humanity national data.

"The donors don't want their stuff to be in the dump," said Lacreda Riley, ReStore manager. "They want to know somebody else is enjoying it. They want to help out in the process, and they want the tax return. So all the way around, it's a good situation."

There are 74 Habitat homes in Bluffton, two on Hilton Head Island and 13 in Ridgeland.

Hilton Head residents Juanita and James Taylor are prospective Habitat home owners. One of the requirements of getting a Habitat home is to invest a certain number of hours of labor or "sweat equity" to Habitat projects so Juanita has been working at the Bluffton ReStore -- and familiarizing herself with merchandise she might buy for her new home.

"By reusing, it gives people like me an opportunity to get things I might not be able to afford." said Juanita, who has shopped at the ReStore over the years. "And at the same time, you're really saving the Earth."

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