Nestled right next to Dallas & Co. on University Avenue in Champaign lies the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, one of Champaign-Urbana’s hidden gems. Of course, most people know that Habitat constructs houses for those in need, but they also run the ReStore, a vibrant and sustainable thrift store. Kerry-Ann caught up with ReStore Operations Technician Leroy Williams (pictured above) to chat a little bit about what the ReStore does.
Smile Politely: How did you begin working at the Habitat ReStore?
Leroy: I started volunteering for a family member who had a house build in town and I got a job offer and I took it.
SP: Everyone seems to know that Habitat for Humanity builds houses, but how many houses are built by Habitat in C-U each year?
Leroy: We been doing more and more every year. The first year that I was involved with Habitat was 7. It increased every year. Last year, I think we did 11. This year, we’re set to do 12.
SP: When did you start working at Habitat?
Leroy: It’s been 4 years, so 2011.
SP: What exactly is your role with the ReStore? What’s your favorite aspect?
Leroy: I started out as a driver, and then I moved up to being an associate working in the store and now I’m the operations technician. What that means is that I help with the maintenance of the building and help cover for managers who need to take off work, and do orientation for volunteers. Getting to meet new people is a big plus. I think all of that has been a positive for me.
SP: What ways does the Habitat ReStore help the community other than just building houses?
Leroy: We provide furnishings for homes at a very reasonable cost. We started off offering goods at half the price of regular retail price, but we’ve gone lower than that, too. People who can’t afford high price furniture or dishes or things like that, we provide them at a cheaper cost.
SP: Can you tell us about your recycling program? You guys must get things that aren’t able to be used.
Leroy: We keep all that stuff from going into the landfill and go to our recycler so they can either recycle or use parts for refurbishing.
SP: Do you guys handle any repairs?
Leroy: We do minor repairs, not major. If it’s something that’s possible that we can do, we try our best.
SP: How did the recycling program and a commitment to sustainability come about?
Leroy: It was already something in place when I started here. It’s something that’s been going on for a while now, though itt has increased a lot in recent memory.
SP: How much do you think do you guys recycle per day or per week?
Leroy: I would say probably maybe 200 lbs a day.
SP: What times of the year do you guys do the most recycling?
Leroy: During the time the U of I gets out. A lot of students get rid of stuff they don’t need anymore. Spring or Summer are also popular because of people refurbishing and getting rid of old stuff.
SP: Do you guys hope to expand the recycling program or looking for other things for recycling?
Leroy: I think we’re fine. Where we’re at now, I think it’ll increase on its own. One thing I’m really concerned about is the big, bulky televisions and computer monitors. There seems not to be a solution for that and we’re trying to work on that lately.
SP: Do they just stay or do you guys try to sell them?
Leroy: We try and sell them – we do sell them. But if they don’t work, it’s hard to get rid of them that way because it’s a tremendous cost to us.
SP: What are the plans for the ReStore’s expansion?
Leroy: We hope to have another ReStore in I hope 2017. The location is the main thing we’re worried about. It’ll probably be placed more towards Savoy or Urbana in order to be more accessible.