Tears were threatening to overflow for Nicole Murray, executive director of Will County Habitat for Humanity, while she gave a heartfelt speech at the ReStore grand opening Thursday evening.
Next to her stood a child, part of a family that Habitat for Humanity built a home for. “It’s bigger, quieter and much prettier,” said the fourth-grader, who also expressed excitement about being able to read more in his new home.
The new store is located at 1395 N. Larkin Ave. in Joliet. The store will be able to build one to two homes a year, using funds from donations and money spent on the gently used items sold there. Its goal is to build six homes in three years.
“We feel very blessed to have this opportunity. The community has been absolutely unbelievable. Almost everything in here was done with volunteers. Everything was also donated to us,” ReStore Director Heidi Serena said.
Habitat for Humanity has been building homes in Will County for the past five years, and there now are nine ReStores in the Chicago area.
The former ReStore location had many challenges, Serena said. Habitat for Humanity rented the space, and it had no air conditioning.
The new retail location features an industrial-like interior.
“We have a large parking lot, we have air conditioning. And we were able to start over and create our vision,” Serena said.
ReStore is Habitat for Humanity’s largest fundraiser.
“All the proceeds go to fund the mission of building our homes. So we want people to come in and donate their goods, donate their money, we want them to donate their time, and we want them to shop,” Murray said.
Murray said other goals include helping with neighborhood revitalization, and a “Safe at Home” program, which is a home repair service.
“The biggest thing that I’ve learned since I’ve been here in Habitat – we’re a builder, we’re a realtor, we’re family services, we’re an educator, we’re hospitality, we’re volunteer coordinating – we’re doing so many things that the community could be such a part of, and be part of the excitement,” Murray said.
It’s a life-changing experience all the way through, Murray said.
Near the entrance of the store are shelves filled with tiny homes. The chalkboard sign perched in front of it reads, “Help us a build a neighborhood.” Attendants paid $20 or more for a little house that they could customize and place in the makeshift, miniature neighborhood.
The intention is to raise money for the creation of a real neighborhood in the future. For information about volunteering or donating, visit chicagolandhabitat.org or call 815-726-1880.