By Joyell Nevins
“Small but mighty” is the unofficial motto for San Diego Habitat for Humanity (HFH). The staff and office, which is located in Grantville, may be small, but their volunteers and heart make big things happen.
“It’s a good karma circle,” Patty Kramer, who works in administration, said of the people and groups that pour into HFH and often receive assistance in return.
HFH’s basic premise is that everyone deserves a decent place to live, regardless of race, religion or economic background. They do this through building brand new homes, repairing standing homes, and revitalizing neighborhoods. Last year, HFH built five new homes, repaired 12 veterans’ homes, and helped neighborhoods revitalize five other homes.
Volunteers also built 28 playhouses that went to children in HFH partner families, military children, and other children in need. HFH partners with organizations such as the San Diego Military Family Collaborative, the Escondido Community Child Development Center, The Children’s Initiative, and Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego to distribute the playhouses.
“I used to work in the corporate world, but I love Habitat’s mission,” said Delinda Fugere, who serves on the ReStore staff. “It’s giving back instead of being greedy on the other end.”
HFH brings together hard working volunteers and knowledgeable contractors to complete the labor intensive process of home building. Even the new homeowners have to put in “sweat equity” – 250 hours of volunteer work per adult applicant, along with being an active part of the homeowners’ association.
“I love that at Habitat for Humanity, you’re really helping people who want to better their lives,” Bill Yaussy said.
Yaussy has been a volunteer with HFH for three years, since he served jury duty with someone who also volunteered. He originally started working on a “Home of the Brave,” a new housing unit for veterans in Lakeside, and now works in the ReStore. He is one of 8,229 volunteers who over the course of a year donated their time through construction sites, the office or the ReStore.
“We could not function without our volunteers,” ReStore director John Stockman said. “Volunteers help us in every part of what we do.”
What is ReStore?
What’s the ReStore? It’s like a consignment store for anything home improvement-related. Tools, flooring, doors, screws, toilets, lamps, appliances – if it has to do with building or filling a home, the ReStore probably has it. In 2015, ReStore diverted over 39 tons of reusable material from ending up in the landfill to being used for another purpose.
Items come from stores like Lowes and The Home Depot, contractor scraps, home deconstruction and people moving or switching out their interiors. Tiling and windows go fast. ReStore volunteers will pick up items free of charge — and they have seen the gamut of donations. Yaussy just recently helped bring in a baby grand piano.
“It’s a lot more than just building stuff,” Kramer said, sitting in an office furnished by ReStore donations. She’s seen stained glass windows, crepe myrtle and antiques come through the ReStore doors.
“There’s treasure in the ReStore — you never know what you’re going to find,” Stockman said.
Stockman points out that the ReStore does have a quality criteria for the products that go in the store. Shoppers can expect everything on the shelves or floor to be in good condition.
What won’t happen is items from the ReStore ending up in a HFH new home. Everything that goes into a home the organization is building is brand new. Funding from the ReStore helps purchase product and pay administrative and other costs.
The ReStore grossed $1.4 million in sales last year — 43 percent of all funds raised for HFH. Stockman said San Diego’s goal is to be able to fund themselves self-sufficiently, so all of the donations can go directly into the homes being built or repaired. With that in mind, HFH is looking to open five to six new ReStore locations in the next seven years.
Although HFH has a specific mission and does not have the resources to help every person who walks through their doors, they don’t send anyone away empty handed. The organization has a myriad of connections to assist those in need. Last year, HFH connected 300 people with counseling and other supportive services of partner organizations.
“We make sure they get a warm handshake with someone who can help,” Stockman said.
HFH is continually seeking ReStore donations, monetary donations, and volunteers. Learn more or get involved by calling 619-516-5267 or visiting sdhfh.org. ReStore is located at 10222 San Diego Mission Road in the Grantville and is open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.