Volunteers needed for move and operations
By Eliot Duke
Dunn Daily Record
DUNN – Christina Wallace stood on the open loading dock at the Habitat for Humanity of Harnett County Restore wiping sweat from her forehead. Volunteers moved in and out of the sweltering box truck as Wallace oversaw a long-anticipated move for the nonprofit, one highlighted by more room, increased exposure and all-important air-conditioning.
Habitat for Humanity of Harnett County finally solved its location riddle after more than three decades of moving from one ill-equipped or undersized building to another. The nonprofit recently agreed to terms on its new home next to Ollie’s at 2200 W. Cumberland St., and staff couldn’t be happier.
“We’re very excited,” said Wallace, the restore’s manager. “It’s going to be a bigger space and will be all air-conditioned. We’re all working really hard to make this move.”
Executive Director Mike Blackmon said the anticipated move already is paying dividends as the added visibility increased foot traffic into the new store, which isn’t expected to be open until some time in September. The Restore’s current home at 101 W. Harnett St. often hindered the nonprofit’s efforts due to its location off the beaten path.
“Its been the board’s vision to have a bigger store in an area with more traffic,” said Blackmon. “Right now, where we’re currently located, we’re more of a destination spot than we are anything else. You’ve got to know where it’s at. We’ve had a lot of people stop by since we put the sign up who I never saw at the other store.”
Habitat’s move to the new store started when a real estate company out of Atlanta approached the agency about a couple spaces it had for rent in the area that could fit its needs. Following nearly a year of negotiations, Habitat struck a deal and now the hard work begins. Staff and volunteers currently are refitting the space to better serve customer needs, which includes increased accessibility for handicapped visitors, a lot more room for more items, and better parking.
“We’re excited about moving here,” said Blackmon. “One of the benefits is it’s larger. It’s all one big open space and not cut up into individual pods like it currently is. It’s in a higher traffic volume area and we think it’s a win-win situation for us. Our employees suffer out in that big warehouse [without air conditioning]. We’ve got much better parking and it’s just easier to get to. We’re much more visible than we were.”
Habitat for Humanity of Harnett County started in 1993, first in Erwin and then on West Harnett Street. For a nonprofit that prides itself on putting families in new homes, finding a suitable home of its own proved challenging for many years. Staff and volunteers spent the past decade in a warehouse that feels hotter inside than it does outside, particularly in the dog days of summer.
“We’re like a hidden gem,” Wallace said. “So many people don’t know about us. We’ve had a ton of people come to the new store who didn’t know the old store was here. It’s an open plan here so you can come in and see everything. We’re also working on getting some new stuff into the store so we’re excited. We’re working really hard over there.”
Blackmon said the nonprofit’s new board is committed to taking Habitat for Humanity of Harnett County to new heights, starting with an upgraded facility.
“Habitat for Humanity has been trudging along for years and our board members are real progressive,” said Blackmon. “They want to grow: they want to build more than one house a year and there are a lot of pros they’re wanting to accomplish and we think one of them will be moving into this facility. We think it’s going to boost our sales dramatically.”
With the process well underway, Blackmon and Wallace both stressed the need for volunteers, especially during the week. The COVID-19 pandemic put a dent in the nonprofit’s access to volunteers, and Wallace said anyone interested in helping out would be most appreciated.
“We need volunteers,” said Wallace. “That would help. Anybody who wants to volunteer can call me at the restore 910-891-4500 and ask for me. That’s our biggest thing. COVID slowed down our volunteers. Corporate wouldn’t let us have new volunteers but they opened the doors back up to that and it has really has been the hardest thing is a lack of volunteers and employees. We need all the help we can get and having everybody in the community come together would be great.”
Blackmon said he needed people who could help out with painting, laying down the floor and putting up office walls. Volunteers show up on the weekends, but it’s during the week where the nonprofit struggles to find help.
“Our employees over there haven’t had the time to leave the store and come over to offer us any guidance as to how they want the floor laid out,” Blackmon said. “We need them during the week and that’s been the biggest challenge.”
An exact grand-opening date remains up in the air, but the new store is expected to open its door by the middle of September.
For more information, call 910-891-7770.