The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 12, 2013

Big and small donations boost Joplin Habitat home-building program

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Editor’s note: The Joplin Globe, in an ongoing series, is telling the story of the many hands that play a role in recovery from the May 2, 2011, tornado by following the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home at 2630 S. Wall Ave. Every piece of the home and every volunteer has a story.

It reads a bit like the children’s story “This is the House That Jack Built.”

First, in Picher, Okla., Terry Booth, assistant manager of Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, retrieved doors, windows and other pieces from homes bought out by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Next, he hauled them back to ReStore at 315 S. Blackcat Road in Joplin, where volunteers helped unload them into a warehouse that held a myriad of other discarded items: unwanted cabinets from a Joplin woman’s kitchen overhaul, faucets cleared out by Ace Hardware and hardware donated by Atwoods when it changed suppliers.

One by one, the items were purchased by landlords, contractors, arts-and-crafters — anyone seeking a bargain. The items found new homes, and the proceeds went to Joplin Habitat to build new homes.

The last chapter of the story for the home being built at 2630 S. Wall Ave. will be when Ed and Angela Kunce move in about the end of February.

“Who knows how many little things, doorknobs or whatever, all add up to build these homes,” Booth said.

The Kunce home is one of 26 being built by Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity; the group has completed 45 others since the May 2011 tornado.

“Every donation matters, whether it’s small or large. Every donation means something, means a great deal. When people are able to donate to us, even cleaning out the garage, it provides an opportunity for someone to get rid of something they no longer need — and that turns into someone’s treasure, literally,” said Habitat Executive Director Scott Clayton, who noted that anyone also can shop at the ReStore.

Open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., ReStore has grown in recent years to become a 12,000-square-foot treasure-trove of anything and everything used to build or outfit a home. Door pulls. Tile. Electrical circuit boxes. Drywall primer and sealer. Toilets. Stoves.

Booth, who started at ReStore six years ago, said he remembers when it was comprised of nothing more than the front two rooms. Today, he takes the truck out every day to retrieve donations, which fill not just the building but the back lot. He primarily sticks to a 50-mile radius, but occasionally ventures much farther if the offer is right.

“We did go to Wichita because they had items that ended up netting us $3,500, so it was worth it,” he said. “I went to Grove, Okla., last week because a guy bought a storage building that was loaded with tile, and he had no need for it. We’re selling it for 50 cents a piece.”

Trade-X, when going out of business, donated a semitrailer full of wallpaper. Lowe’s changed cabinet manufacturers and had stock to move, so it donated $90,000 worth — so much that ReStore rented another building to hold it all.

“We sold out of it in three months,” Booth said.

Most items are automatically marked at half the price of what retail stores charge, he noted, meaning anyone on a budget should check ReStore first as long as they’re willing to be flexible on make, model and design.

“That lady’s $14,000 set of kitchen cabinets we are offering for $4,000,” he said. “It’s great, because we’re keeping this stuff out of the landfill, and it’s helping to build new homes.”

The added win for those who donate, Booth noted, is the ability to write off their contributions on their income taxes. The only thing the store doesn’t accept is clothing and toys.