Rockford ReStore’s ‘Leap of Faith’ Pays Off

Whether you’re buying something for your own home, donating items or volunteering at ReStore, 7141 Harrison Ave., you’re improving local lives by supporting the mission of Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity.

“Our Rockford ReStore is a key funding source in the support of the Habitat for Humanity mission, which provides safe, affordable housing to deserving area families who want to be homeowners,” says John Hargrove, a volunteer and former Rockford Habitat board president. ReStore opened in Rockford in 2005.

“In 2021, ReStore will provide 50 percent of the funding for six new Habitat homes.”

ReStore sells gently used furniture, tools, home furnishings, building supplies like windows, sinks and doors, electrical and plumbing supplies, flooring, tile and more. New items are also sold, donated by businesses and corporations.

Hargrove, a retired manager, worked 42 years for Sears. He led the relocation of ReStore to Harrison Avenue, across from Cherryvale Mall, in 2018.

The move was “somewhat of a leap of faith” that’s proven hugely successful.

“With the move, ReStore tripled in size and became more visible to the public, attracting more shoppers and donors. The number of donations is staggering, but that’s a good problem,” he says.

The pandemic caused people to stay home and focus on chores they’d put off, like cleaning out the basement, garage and attic. As a result, about 600 to 800 drop-offs are made to the store each month. A 20-foot truck is used to pick up bigger items from homes and businesses.

“Some people shop with us every week because they know the inventory is always different and if they see something they like, they buy it, knowing it’s one of a kind or won’t be there when they return,” says Hargrove. “The important rule at ReStore is buy it when you see it.”

There are hundreds of ReStores across the country and no two look alike. The Rockford store is a more traditional retail business with many departments and a focus on “shop-ability.”

As part of its mission, ReStore is environmentally responsible. It sells a line of recycled latex paint and recycles hundreds of pounds of metal each month that comes in as donated items which can’t be resold. It also recycles cardboard. The money raised from recycling goes to Habitat home building.

ReStore could not succeed without its volunteers.

“We’re always looking for volunteers who can work on a flexible schedule and help process donations, arrange items on the sales floor and help customers,” says Hargrove. “Bring a friend with you to volunteer and see how fun and gratifying it is to support a great non-profit organization.”

People who qualify for Habitat homes come from all walks of life and have one thing in common: a commitment to improving their family’s future. Habitat homeowners are people who have improved their health, earned college degrees and made other life-changing efforts. Owning a quality home they can afford, with a 0 percent interest mortgage through Habitat, has made all the difference to many families.

“Homeowners often end up with better living conditions than they have ever known, while paying less money owning rather than renting,” Hargrove says.

Four years ago, Rockford Habitat partnered with Rockford Public School District 205 and its newly introduced construction curriculum. The partnership allows high school construction students and their teachers to gain hands-on experience that builds their skills. They began by building interior walls and later took on all aspects of building new homes.

This year, Guilford High School construction program students will build their fifth home. The same curriculum is now taught at East High School, whee students will build their first home this fall.

“It’s a touching moment to see the kids look at the completed home they built for a family who needs it,” says Hargrove. “The students get to see the impact their hard work has on a family, while developing worthwhile construction skills they can tap into for the rest of their lives. Their skills and construction experience have also helped graduating students to find employment in that field.”

ReStore accepts drop-off donations Tuesday through Saturday and donations can be scheduled for pickup. Check out the Rockford Habitat for Humanity website to learn about drop-off hours, to schedule a pickup, and to see a list of acceptable items. Or, call (815) 580-1205 to schedule a pickup.

ReStore shopping hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Families interested in learning about the home ownership program and people interested in volunteering can call the local Habitat office at (815) 636-4573.

Says Hargrove, “Dollars and donations really do make a positive difference in our community.” ❚