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ReStore Volunteers Band Together to Manage Silent Auctions

From antique furniture and unique home décor, to war memorabilia and paintings by famous artists, there’s a wide variety of treasures waiting to be discovered each month in our Cornelius Habitat ReStore’s silent auctions. It’s all made possible by hardworking volunteers Sandy Hartwell, Wanda McManaway, Mary Christenbury and Lynne Justus.

After 20 years of running these silent auctions, our ReStore volunteers have perfected a system to get the job done. Volunteers who sort donations know to watch for and set aside some special treasures to be considered for the auction. ReStore truck drivers also flag donated items for potential inclusion in the auction.
“They’re always eager to find items for us, and happy when they do,” Wanda said.

Wanda also volunteers with hospice and worked as a banker for 40 years before joining the ReStore. While volunteering through her former employer, Wanda realized she loved handling unique and unusual items. She wanted to keep giving back to her community once she retired, which brought her to the ReStore to help run silent auctions.

Volunteers take care to organize the auction in a visibly appealing way. Organization of items is also determined by size, type and theme. Volunteers align most of the furniture in the middle of the auction area and house small items in glass cabinets around the perimeter.

“We also group items by subject matter,” Sandy said, such as musical instruments, nautical items, kitchen ware and many other themes.

Sandy, a ReStore volunteer since 2006, was the former CEO of a family company in Mississippi. She began shopping at our ReStore when she moved to the area.

“It made sense for me to volunteer,” she said.

The minimum bid for auction items is only $1, so many items sell for less than their true value. Occasionally, though, some items spark real competition.

“A print by [famous artist] George Rodrigue sold for around $800,” Sandy said.

“Recently, a watercolor sold for over $500 as well,” Mary said.

Mary is a retired IT manager who also used to volunteer at the Carolina Raptor Center. Aside from helping with the silent auctions, Mary’s main task is maintaining the rare books section of the ReStore.

“[At the Raptor Center] I wasn’t helping my fellow man as much as I am now,” Mary said. “I really appreciate that Habitat is so mission-focused and people-focused.”

Following the financial burden of college, she turned to the ReStore for her needs.

“I began volunteering because I wanted to give back after what [the ReStore] had given me,” Mary said.

Auctions run for two weeks, with a week for teardown and setup between. As soon as one auction opens, preparation for the next one begins.

“The entirety of the three weeks prior to the next auction is spent preparing for that auction,” Sandy said.

To learn how it all began, look to Lynne. She’s the volunteer who has been handling the silent auctions the longest of all.

A former public welfare caseworker and substitute teacher, among other roles, Lynne began running the auctions when her close friend Jean Brown—who helped launch the auctions–recruited her nearly two decades ago. Running the auctions has always been hard work.

“When I joined the silent auctions, the two of us were listing 40–50 items, handwriting the bid sheets and ending auctions at 2 p.m. —and putting together the next auction the same day,” Lynne said. “We now list as many as 150 items and have three to four people working to put it together.”

Lynne was very close with Jean; they shared a wonderful friendship.

“She was a great friend, a strong tennis partner, a boating buddy and just fun to be with,” Lynne said.

Prior to volunteering at the ReStore, Lynne also worked on Habitat build sites. Volunteering for Our Towns Habitat, no matter the task, is always rewarding, she said.

“I have always volunteered, but Habitat really allows us to see what our work is accomplishing,” Lynne said. “That is satisfying.”

Thanks to the efforts of Jean, Lynne, Sandy, Wanda and Mary, our ReStore’s silent auctions are a pleasure to explore. Our current auction ends on July 5, and the following begins July 12. Stop by to take a look at what treasures are up for grabs.

About the Author: Madison Seals is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is majoring in Editing and Graphic Design. She has been a volunteer with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity from a young age, supporting the organization through fundraising efforts before she was even old enough to volunteer on a build site.

Nicky Built Her Own Home, So Her Family Can Build Memories

“Home” means so many things. It’s where we build our lives and where we build memories.

With the dedication of their new Habitat home, Nicky and her two sons can begin building new lives in an affordable home that Nicky helped build with her own hands. Micah, 8, already has big plans for this house—he can’t wait to have friends over for sleepovers and play hide and seek. His older brother Jeremiah, 12, can have a basketball hoop for the first time.
Mom Nicky sees how significant these “little things” are to her sons, and knows these are the memories they will look back on and treasure. Being able to give her boys a place of their own is something she has prayed for, and she says that “without God, I don’t think this would be possible.”

The family will be moving out of a cramped two-bedroom townhouse with maintenance and health concerns. The room the boys now share is caving in, and mold in the bathroom aggravates their allergies. Six years ago, Nicky found herself homeless due to domestic violence, and had to move in with her mom and stepdad.

“This marks a brand new beginning us, and gives us a house to call our own, in a nice, safe neighborhood,” Nicky said.

Before partnering with Habitat, Nicky had never tackled anything like the work required to build her own home. But she is dedicated and goal-driven, so she dove in to the work and learned many new skills along the way. She loved seeing the walls go up on framing day, and says that the labor she put in to building her home makes her appreciate it all the more.

Now, she is looking forward to making the home her own—having the freedom to paint her walls and hang pictures and mirrors. Jeremiah plans to decorate his room in a Dallas Cowboys theme, and Micah is deciding which room Disney, the family’s poodle mix, will claim. And we are all looking forward to seeing how the family—including Disney—will grow and thrive in their new Habitat home.

Strength of Family & Friends Supported Shameca

Often when we talk about affordable, we speak of unacceptable choices people make when housing costs too much. Rent or groceries? Rent or the light bill? Rent or medicine?

Shameca was staring down that choice when she came to Our Towns Habitat. Diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, sarcoidosis, in 2005, Shameca takes a regime of medication to help keep the disease under control. With continued hikes in her rent, Shameca could not afford to pay her bills and still buy her medicine—and skipping her medicine was simply not an option.
So, after living on her own since the age of 19, Shameca and her two children moved back in with her mom. By this time, she had already been accepted in to our homeownership program, and knew she was on her way to a home of her own.

“My mom has been with me all along this journey,” Shameca told us. “She has been out here every Saturday, even working on other people’s homes—she’s my rock.”

Shameca’s medical challenges have made that journey all the more challenging. Sarcoidosis starts in one organ—for Shameca it was her lungs—then begins attacking other organs. Shameca’s case is aggressive, and she has faced multiple surgeries, including cervical fusion and gallbladder surgery. She is now undergoing treatments she hopes will help her avoid surgery on her lower back.

Shameca is fiercely independent and used to taking care of others—she worked for 15 years as a home health CNA. Learning to accept help from others when she is not physically able to do things is not easy for her. But has learned to ask for help when she needs it, and she draws a beautiful analogy from her own physical struggles to describe her support network.

“I like to think of them as little individual pieces of my spine that hold me up when I can’t do it myself,” she said. Many family members have rolled up their sleeves and gone to work to help her build her home. Her father, brother, sisters and even cousins have all volunteered to build.

When asked to pick her favorite part of building her home, Shameca said it was “everything—there wasn’t one thing that I didn’t like to do.” But for her, framing day, when she watched the walls of her home to up, was the day that made things real for her.

While Shameca is grateful that her mom took her family in, she is looking forward to regaining some of her independence with her new home—and building a stable foundation for her son and daughter. Before her daughter Chanazia, 14, was even born, Shameca made a promise to her son Chad, 21, that one day they would have a house—a place where they can be comfortable, create new memories and that will always be theirs. Today, she fulfills that pledge.

Shameca’s home was generously sponsored by Publix Super Market Charities. Publix has donated $5.5 million to Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the Southeast, helping to build 60 new houses in 2017 for families in need of decent, affordable housing. Additional financial support was provided by Well Fargo and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ Collegiate Challenge team.

Brothers Came Together to Help Build a Home for Their Mom, Sister

Nearly 10 years ago, Gregoria and her son David travelled to North Carolina from their home in Seattle to visit family. They felt welcomed and decided to move here, looking for a new start.

But since then, they have struggled to find a decent, affordable place to live. They have moved three times since, and the rentals they could afford were too small, poorly maintained and sometimes in unsafe neighborhoods.
Gregoria learned about Our Towns Habitat’s homeownership program through our ReStores, where she shopped to save money on things the family needed for the household. The family applied with Habitat after the mobile home they rented had a significant fire in the kitchen, forcing yet another move.

The mobile home was older and had not been kept up; the fire sparked because of faulty wiring. The family found another rental—a cramped two-bedroom—but they knew it was time to find a better answer.

That answer was to partner with Habitat to build their own affordable home. And it took the whole family coming together to make it happen. Gregoria is disabled and on limited income, so her son David is buying the home with her, and they will own it together.

David and his older brother, John, who moved to North Carolina a few years after Gregoria and David, have together worked hard to earn most of the “sweat equity” hours the family needed, so that Gregoria could care for their younger sister, Persia. At age 6, Persia is still affectionately referred to as the “baby” of the family.

John recalls helping his father do construction work when he was younger, but said, “to build our own home is really an experience.”

John is a full-time student at Central Piedmont Community College, and is just a few credits away from his business administration degree. David is also a student at CPCC, studying criminal justice while working full-time. They both say that having stable housing will help them focus on their studies, in turn helping them better support their family.

But what the whole family is most excited about as they move into their new home is being able to provide a home for Persia to grow up in—and a yard where she can plant the garden she has always dreamed of.

ReStore Launch VIP Club Membership Program

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is excited to introduce a new customer loyalty program in its Habitat ReStores to better serve our regular shoppers—the VIP Club!

The ReStores will be launching a new VIP Club discount card beginning July 1, providing customers a 5% everyday discount on most items, 10% one day a month, plus special VIP member-only promotions. Customers may join the VIP club for a one-time $5 enrollment fee.
This card-based loyalty program replaces the “Green Bag” program, where customers purchased a reusable green shopping tote for $2.50 and received a discount anytime they brought the bag with them to shop. Customer research indicated that a card-based system was more convenient for shoppers, who often forgot the bag at home, or would have to run back out to the parking lot to fetch the bag from their vehicle.

The card-based system will allow customers to keep the discount card conveniently in a wallet—and if it is forgotten, cashiers can look up the customer information in a linked database so they can still receive their discount.

The “Green Bag” program will be phased out, with the discount being discontinued as of July 31. Current “Green Bag” customers will be able to present their bag to the cashier to join the VIP Club at a discounted enrollment fee of $2.50 (and still keep their bag for use as an environmentally friendly shopping tote).

Critical Repairs Transformed Johnny’s Home

See the amazing transformation Our Towns Habitat for Humanity made in Johnny’s home through our critical repairs program.