By BRENNA GRITEMAN
After steering dozens of citizens toward homeownership and helping nearly 100 more to safely maintain the one they’re in, the local Habitat chapter finally has a home to call its own.
Habitat for Humanity of Findlay/Hancock County’s ReStore will close operations at its Tiffin Avenue location at 5 p.m. today, opening a week later at its permanent address, 1200 Commerce Parkway. The new location will bring all Habitat operations under one roof, and comes with a significant cut in monthly expenses. Best of all, whereas the former building was rented, Habitat is launching a $1.4 million capital campaign to purchase the building outright.
“The whole purpose is practicing what we’ve been teaching our families,” says executive director Wendy McCormick. That teaching, in short, is that homeownership is a critical piece to stabilizing lives and moving families toward a greater quality of life.
“We believe everything starts with a safe place to lay your head at night, a safe place for your children,” McCormick says.
Habitat, as an organization, has not been living by this same practice, she admits. Since its inception in 2010, the ReStore has paid steep rental fees to be situated along Tiffin Avenue’s “prime retail market.” Heavy traffic and a shared parking lot have made accessibility a challenge, and flood events have regularly interrupted operations. McCormick says donors and friends of the organization have long advocated for Habitat to own its own building, just not that one.
The agency’s new home has sat vacant for many years, last occupied by Millstream Career Center. The 23,000-square-foot building was owned by a local philanthropist who not only cut the price tag in half, but threw in an extra acre.
Habitat purchased the building in December 2017, and 1,200 volunteers donated nearly 10,000 renovation hours. About a dozen local businesses pitched in with in-kind gifts of construction labor, materials and equipment, McCormick says.
The building now boasts a new roof and heating and air conditioning unit, plumbing and electrical upgrades, a new fire suppression and alarm system and LED lighting throughout. Inside, visitors will find a vast training center for volunteers and families; a family services room where families can fill out home applications and begin the Habitat partnership process; a temperature-controlled construction area to house building materials and allow for year-round carpentry; a dedicated intake and processing space; and the 13,000-square-foot ReStore showroom.
The new site also features about three times as much parking, allowing for increased accessibility for volunteers, shoppers and families, and easier dropoff of ReStore donations and construction materials.
McCormick says the capital campaign, chaired by local business owners Chuck and DeeDee Bills, will help Habitat pay down its mortgage and free up more funds to be spent on families, not rent.
“We’re confident we can maintain and sustain it,” she says of the new building, “because we’re already paying half of what we were paying out on Tiffin Avenue.”
McCormick says ReStore’s move from Tiffin Avenue will begin hours after the close of business today, continuing through Tuesday.
“We need many hands,” she says, estimating the move will require the help of about 200 volunteers. Those interested can sign up through Habitat’s website at www.habitatfindlay.org or through a link on the agency’s Facebook page. Culinary students from Millstream Career Center will prepare meals for the volunteers.
Habitat will host a grand opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 8, with the ReStore opening for business at 10. The first 100 people in line will receive gift certificates to the store, and special deals will be offered throughout the first week of operations. Expanded store hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Being a Christian ministry, a blessing of the building will take place — just as it does at all Habitat homes.
“This is our new home, so we’re going to bless this home for the work we want to do,” McCormick says.
Home builds are ‘exciting and fabulous and wonderful’
Habitat for Humanity’s mission and impact cannot be contained to a single identity.
“We are a construction company, a mortgage company and a bank, we’re an educational facility,” says Wendy McCormick, executive director for the Findlay/Hancock County affiliate.
Habitat is planning two home builds this year, one in June and another in September. June’s build will mark the local affiliate’s 42nd home. Each home build costs an estimated $100,000.
McCormick explains partner families must be low-income with a demonstrated need for shelter. The families partner with Habitat for one year prior to the build, and dedicate a minimum of 400 hours toward volunteerism and financial education. The families must also donate “sweat equity,” meaning they help build their own home.
The homes are built in 14 days — referred to as a “blitz build” — with the help of about 400 volunteers.
“It’s exciting and fabulous and wonderful,” McCormick says.
When all is said and done, the family moves into a safe, affordable home which they work to purchase directly from Habitat. The family pays for materials and land only, at a zero percent interest rate.
“We are their bank,” McCormick explains, adding that most families pay a mortgage of about $350 per month, as opposed to the standard $750 or higher monthly rental rate in Findlay.
Habitat also assists about 25 families a year through its Critical Home Repair Program. This initiative benefits those who own their home but can’t afford upkeep to make the structure warmer, safer and drier. This can include accessibility upgrades, repairs to furnaces or hot water heaters, window and roof upgrades, and plumbing and electrical work.
McCormick says the majority of these recipients are elderly individuals on disability or Social Security, and the safety modifications allow them to remain in their own home.
Much of Habitat’s mission is funded through donations from individuals, corporations and churches, with support from the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation and service clubs like Rotary and Kiwanis. The remaining one-third is funded through the ReStore, lovingly referred to by McCormick as “the store that helps build homes.”
ReStore sells new and used donations of furniture and appliances, construction materials, toilets, windows, doors, sinks, cabinetry and home goods for 50 to 80 percent of the cost of retail. The store is open to the public and has a strong following of “very loyal shoppers and donors,” she says.
Habitat calculates that since its opening in 2010, ReStore has diverted 970 tons of reusable material from landfills.
Materials can be dropped off at the store during normal operating hours, or crews offer a free pickup service in Findlay and the surrounding area. The truck runs Tuesdays through Saturdays, with pickups scheduled a week out. Upon pickup, the driver hands the donor a tax write-off. Call 419-429-1400 to schedule.