Things To Be Grateful For: Habitat For Humanity
Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville is an organization that relies heavily on and is grateful for its volunteers. Whether helping with a new build, sorting donations at ReStore locations, or acting as advocates for new homebuyers, volunteers make Habitat for Humanity a strong local presence.
Two local ReStore locations in Portland and Hikes Point resell donated items, and the proceeds are then used to build Habitat houses. Angela Brooks, ReStore director, says her personal goal is to have the proceeds from ReStores cover the costs of four Habitat builds each year. “We are on track to be there soon,” she says, although she acknowledges that COVID-19 hasn’t made that goal easy.
Habitat is always in need of donations, and there is little the ReStores won’t accept. Some people erroneously think that Habitat ReStores refurbish items, but this is not the case, which means that donated items should be in working order. Habitat ReStores cannot accept mattresses, dishwashers, older faucets, and baby items. Furniture, housewares, appliances, tools, lawn and garden items, and cabinets are what sell especially well. “We ask that appliances be less than 10 years old,” Angela says. At the moment, Habitat is also not accepting paint because of COVID-19 and the labor intensive nature of the paint recycling program.
The people who shop at Habitat ReStores vary. “We have all types of clients. We have a lot of people who are in there every day; they have rental properties,” she says. Resellers also like to shop ReStores for hidden treasures. “We don’t know the true value of everything; we don’t take into consideration if it’s a really valuable piece,” she says. Crafters often come to ReStores to find odds and ends for projects, and it can be pretty cool when they post on Habitat’s social media to show off what they’ve made using Habitat purchases. College students and families also regularly shop at ReStores.
Like so many other organizations, Habitat’s ReStore volunteer network has been impacted by COVID-19, because many volunteers are retirees and, therefore, in the vulnerable category.
HOMEBUYER ADVOCATE PROGRAM
Another avenue for volunteers who want to partner with Habitat is through its Homebuyer Advocate Program. Purchasing a home can feel overwhelming, but this is especially the case if the homebuyer doesn’t have a family member or friend who has ever gone through the experience. If a homebuyer’s primary language isn’t English, this makes the home buying process that much more stressful.
Trevor Loomis, the director of homebuyer services for Habitat for Humanity Louisville, says the Homebuyer Advocate program helps ensure new Habitat homebuyers have a mentor/friend they can turn to for advice, suggestions, or simply a listening ear. “Buying your first house [or building your first house] is not something that comes naturally, so it really is helpful to have someone who has done it a time or two and can walk you through the process,” he says.
Several things make someone an effective volunteer advocate, including having a heart for people and a willingness to build relationships. Trevor says being patient and a good communicator is also key. However, what is not necessary is having a background in construction, home financing, or homeowners’ insurance. A willingness to hunt down answers is sometimes a big part of what an advocate needs to be able to do.
Some Habitat advocate volunteers have been offering this mentoring service for over 30 years, but there is always a need for more individuals or couples who are willing to partner with homebuyers. New advocates are partnered with a seasoned volunteer. “The number of families [and individuals] in our home buyer pipeline has gone up. We have more demand now than we’ve ever had, and we don’t have any more advocates than we’ve ever had,” Trevor says.