Habitat for Humanity opens Westfield ReStore
WESTFIELD – The Greater Springfield chapter of Habitat for Humanity offered a sneak peek of its latest venture in Western Massachusetts: ReStore Home Improvement and Donation Center.
The second-hand store located at 301 East Main Street in Westfield is set to open in April 2015, but Westfield residents were welcome to check out the facilities on Jan. 13.
When ReStore opens up, it will sell gently used furniture and household items to families in the area who need an affordable option when it comes to outfitting their homes.
All of the profits from ReStore will go right back to Habitat for Humanity, and the hope is to raise enough money to help serve an additional family in the area, according to Executive Director Jennifer Schimmel.
“The ultimate goal is to serve more families,” Schimmel said.
The president of the Board of Directors, Walt Tomala, said that 54 houses have already been built in the Greater Springfield area, but the board and Habitat for Humanity’s volunteers are not satisfied with stopping there. The ReStore in Westfield will help push them beyond that number.
Guests who came to the sneak peek of the store’s grounds were asked to make a $30 donation or to donate a lamp, coffee table, end table or mirror.
And they did.
Residents walked through the sliding front doors with lamps in one hand and their matching shades in the other.
One of those people was State Rep. John Velis. Velis was not alone in showing his support to the store either. State Sen. Don Humason, Executive Director of the Westfield Redevelopment Authority Joe Mitchell and City Councilors Cindy Harris and Brian Hoose also attended the event.
Schimmel said that she was excited by the support and welcoming nature of the people of Westfield. She said that when the board was trying to apply for permits, when they were unsure of what to do next, someone was always available to help, answer questions and guide them along the way.
The people of Westfield want this venture to succeed, she said.
“The city of Westfield has been so warm and generous with us. They don’t have to welcome us with open arms and embrace us into the community, but they have,” Schimmel said. “All of the support here – state senators, representatives, city councilors coming out – it shows us we have a great home here.”
Support came from those at the facility to catch what the store will look like come the spring, but it also came in the form of community service hours from 11 students in the Westfield High School chapter of the National Honor Society.
John Tsitso, board member and chair of the ReStore planning committee, praised the efforts of the students who spent a Saturday afternoon removing tile and priming the walls. He said they will be returning to help prepare the store this week and in the future when the store is up and running.
“I think it’s going to be a great partnership,” Tsitso said.
Though the work of the National Honors Society helped ReStore prepare for Tuesday night’s event, there is still much more that needs to be done before it is open and ready to serve in April.
The floors need to be done, the walls require a fresh coat of paint and the ceiling needs new tiles, but Tsito said he is excited about the facility’s openness right now.
“I know it doesn’t look like a lot tonight, but I like to think of it as a blank canvas. In two months time, it’ll be a bustling retail center ready to serve families,” Tsitso said.
Other than the aesthetic needs, ReStore is also looking for help to establish a core selection before it opens, Community Outreach Coordinator Jeff LaValley said.
ReStore will have everything from household items to couches to bedroom sets to trim, but first, the committee needs those items.
“Obviously, the big thing right now is donations, donations, donations. Hopefully the community will support us with gently used items,” LaValley said.
Schimmel said that the store is also in need of volunteers to help prepare for the opening and to help work in the store once it is running.
Habitat for Humanity runs on 95 percent volunteers, Schimmel said, and most of them are untrained coming into the position. The organization will train each volunteer for each particular position.
But the work is more than just helping customers find new kitchen supplies.
“The role of the staff is to empower community to change their lives,” Schimmel said.
Bill Zagorski, who was named manager of the store at the event, will lead this staff.
“I caught the bug back in college,” Zagorski said. “The mission is something simple that every person in this room can do.”
Board members repeated this sentiment, saying that once you work with Habitat for Humanity, you would come back over and over again. This is, in part, why they believe the ReStore will be successful in Westfield. The other is the support and outreach they have already seen from the area.
“It didn’t take us long to realize Westfield was a perfect fit,” Tsitso said.
For more information about the ReStore in Westfield or the Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, visit www.habitatspringfield.org