Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Recycling at Habitat Builds Homes in Sandhills

Recycling in the Sandhills continues to expand in many different ways. One approach even contributes to the construction of new homes for families in need. Items ranging from home furnishings and electrical appliances to building materials and plumbing supplies are recycled at the Habitat Moore Store when local residents donate these items. When they are sold, the store raises funds for Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills.

Ken Pierson, store manager since it opened several years ago, says that the local Habitat affiliate has built 39 houses in the Sandhills with the money generated by store sales. The donation program has expanded much by “word of mouth,” says Pierson, who has more than 30 years of experience in retail operations.

Donations occur for a variety of reasons, he says. Sometimes a family is moving to another region, and buying new furnishings there is often more economical than paying the moving expense. Other families are downsizing to small living quarters.

Another major contributor is Joy Wise, who conducts tag sales throughout the Sandhills. Leftovers from sales conducted by Wise are donated sometimes two or three times a month, according to Pierson.

When a tag sale ends, Pierson sends a Habitat truck to the home and loads items in good condition that can be sold in the store. Because the family receives a receipt for a tax deduction, more of these donations are occurring.

In addition to recycling home furnishings and accessories, the Habitat store has recently begun dedicated recycling operations of metals and cardboard.

Recycling Success

This effort began about two years ago when the Habitat affiliate received a grant from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources that was used to purchase a bailer needed to recycle cardboard. At the same time it also began recycling aluminum soft drink cans and heavy metals.

The heavy metals range from tin to cast iron, Pierson says. Popular donations include appliances such as refrigerators. However, the Habitat store has very limited repair ability. If a donated appliance does not work, the store tries to salvage as many parts as it can and recycle them. (If an appliance is still in working condition, Habitat even picks it up at no charge and then prepares it for sale later in the store.)

Computers are frequently donated. If they are not working, the store usually strips parts to recycle them. In addition, the Habitat store frequently donates computers to Sandhills Community College where they are used in classes taught by Professor Paul Steel in the computer engineering technologies program. In addition, the college repairs some computers for Habitat. In fact, Pierson’s son Stephen has been a student in these classes.

The donations and heavy metals recycling efforts get a major boost from Keith Home Appliance Solutions in Aberdeen. When one of Keith’s customers buys a new appliance to replace a washer, dryer or refrigerator, the old appliance is regularly donated to Habitat and the customer receives a receipt for a tax deduction. Even if the customer turns in the old appliance as trade-in, Keith’s drops it off for the customer at the Habitat store, and Habitat mails the receipt directly to the customer.

In the community, the Habitat store has created a network of regional businesses to support its recycling efforts. For example, it processes heavy metals through Sandhills Recycling in Aberdeen and cardboard through Wagram Paper Stock, which has also provided a trailer to help with collection efforts. In addition, Reynolds Recycling has provided bins to collect aluminum cans.

Proceeds from metal and cardboard recycling contribute enough money annually to build one-third of a house in the Sandhills. Pierson’s goal is to develop the program so that Habitat can build a house completely from the recycling proceeds each year.

The recycling effort, like most Habitat operations, relies heavily on volunteers. The store on N.C. 5 in Aberdeen depends on 65 regular volunteers each week for its operations. Most work a four-hour shift each week, although a few volunteers are “so committed to Habitat” that they work four or five days a week, Pierson says. In fact, last year more than 110 volunteers donated over 12,000 hours in the store, he says.

Store Customers

The store’s customers are a full range of shoppers, Pierson says. Some buyers are families with a child going to college, and they want to fill a dorm room with used furniture. Others own rental property and visit frequently to find high-end furniture such as an Ethan Allen set. Other shoppers are low-income residents looking for a good deal, he says, and the store also attracts a lot of collectors who are looking for a specific game or vintage collectible.

Pierson says that he is continually amazed by how the store attracts many out-of-state shoppers who are familiar with Habitat stores throughout the country. The Moore store attracts buyers from all over the Southeast, and he has seen several regular shoppers who always stop as they drive by on trips. “Some people even go looking for Habitat stores when they are on vacation,” he says.

Everyone who donates to the Habitat store or shops there is contributing to a “greener” Sandhills by how it recycles household items and now metals and cardboard. As these efforts before more successful, the Sandhills will also become a better place to live for many families who previously could not afford their own homes.

Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills is celebrating its 21st year this year of serving families in the Sandhills. Since being founded over 30 years ago, Habitat International has become one of the top 20 homebuilders in the United States and is the largest among nonprofits. Its volunteers have built homes with more than 300,000 families in need in over 3,000 communities and 90 other countries. As a result, more than 1.5 million people around the world live in safe, decent, affordable homes sold by Habitat to its partner families at no profit through no-interest mortgages.
Note: This posting is a slightly edited version of an article published originally in The Pilot (Southern Pines, NC) on January 6, 2010 (pages B1-B2).

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