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Habitat for Humanity ReStore
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By Mike Toth



The first Habitat for Humanity ReStore opened around 25 years ago in Winnipeg. There are now 96 stores covering 775,000 square feet of floor space across Canada, including 58 in Ontario alone. What started humbly a quarter of a century ago has become a major retail/resale organization. Despite all of the impressive statistics, when you walk into the ReStore location on Pacific Ct in London it reminds you more of your neighbours garage than a big box store. This ease and accessibility is by design, and is the result of the people that serve there combined with the entrenchment in the community.

“Habitat for Humanity builds homes, mobilizing volunteers and community partners in providing opportunities for homeownership as a means of breaking the cycle of poverty. The ReStores support this effort financially, by providing a low cost source of renovation, repair, and decorative material, provides a place for people to get volunteer hours, works with high schools for community hours, and provides work experience to assist with rehabilitation for people coming off of short term disability,” says Gerry Pieroni, Vice President of ReStore Operations.

While the concept of the ReStore, recycling and reselling used construction material, sounds pretty simple, in reality many of the items on the floor are no longer in the condition in which they came in. It is the volunteers, 11,000 of them across Canada, who add value to many of the items patrons sift through.

In the large workshop area there are benches at which volunteers test electrical equipment, repair and clean plumbing supplies, strip unusable items for recycling, and collect nuts and bolts and everything saveable. There is even an impressive wood shop where volunteers repair furniture, assemble cabinets and other “straight out of the box” items, and even create new pieces. There is little waste, mainly due to the creativity of the skilled volunteers. Watching Pieroni greet each volunteer by name and the way each greets him back as we walk through the store shows that he embodies the spirit behind Habitat.

“I’m driven by a sense of need for social justice,” says Pieroni. “Everyone deserves a minimum standard of living, and I’m doing what I can do to facilitate that process. Those relationships with the community are what energize me.

I see a diverse cross section of London come through our doors (to shop), but I don’t believe we’re serving our diversity all that well. There are obstacles to our ability to here from people, and we want them to be a part of Habitat.”

The vision of Habitat for Humanity Heartland Ontario is: “A world in which everyone has a safe and decent place to live.” There are two locations in London where you can support this vision and get a great item at a reasonable price: Pacific ReStore at 5-40 Pacific Court, and Adelaide ReStore at 317 Adelaide Street. For more information go to: http://habitat4home.ca/habitat-restore/restore-hours-locations.