BATESVILLE — Habitat for Humanity of Independence County will soon have one more way to serve the community — while bringing in money for the organization’s main cause of building houses for those in need.
Executive Director Shalyn Carlile said the board of directors for the local Habitat nonprofit started talking a while ago about opening a thrift store to sell donated furniture, appliances, decor, construction materials and other items centered on the home.
“We started talking about it several months back,” Carlile said. “We were in limbo trying to find a good space. We needed a large space for a good price. We were looking around and the perfect property just kind of fell into our laps, if you will.”
That property is at 392 Harrison St. in Batesville. The building, which previously housed Wonder Bread, has been empty since 2007. It will soon become the Habitat for Humanity of Independence County Home Store.
“The building needs a lot of TLC,” Carlile said. “We’ve got a lot to do, but we’ll hopefully open in two to three months.”
Carlile said the organization already is accepting donations, and the store has a solid start with some items. Several couches, shelves and decorative items have been collected to be sold once the store opens.
The store will be staffed mainly with volunteers, but Carlile said Habitat plans to hire two or three part-time employees through the Experience Works program.
Experience Works provides training and employment for low-income older people who might have trouble finding work otherwise.
“We work with people 55 or older who are currently not employed and meet our income guidelines,” said Christy Manning-Owen, Experience Works Arkansas state program manager. “We can help them get the training they need to move to the next job.”
Manning-Owen said the Arkansas branch of Experience Works averages 800 participants each year. Those participants work between 15 and 20 hours a week with a participating nonprofit — such as Habitat for Humanity — learning the skills needed to be successful in the workforce.
“They get references from the local community,” Manning-Owen said. “They get recent work history to put on their resumes.”
Experience Works pays the training wage for participants’ on-the-job training. Additionally, the organization will provide supplemental training such as computer classes to help participants fill gaps in their experience.
Grants from the U.S. Department of Labor, states, foundations, sponsorships and contributions from companies and individuals fund Experience Works.
Individuals interested in Experience Works may call (877) 371-5552 for more information.
Because volunteers and Experience Works participants will staff the new Habitat for Humanity store, money raised at the store will go back into the Habitat program to build homes, which Carlile says are a “hand up instead of a handout.”
“We partner with low- to moderate-income families to build houses,” she said. “Our families put in around 350 hours of sweat equity on the build prior to theirs and then on the building of their home as well.”
When a family receives a Habitat home, the family purchases the home with a 20-year interest-free mortgage held by Habitat for Humanity. The money goes into a rotating fund to keep building houses.
Habitat for Humanity of Independence County builds an average of one house per year and has built four homes since it was established.
“We’re a relatively young affiliate compared to some,” Carlile said. “The funding is always an issue. I know other affiliates build 10 to 12 houses per year, and I’d love to get to that level here. Hopefully, the store can help with that.”
Carlile said Habitat recently has started building a house, plus an anonymous donor donated a house that needs a little work — wiring and reroofing, for example — which Carlile said will be the next big project.
The store’s hours are expected to be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Donations are being accepted, including unbroken bricks, cabinets, unstained carpet, doors, usable electrical fixtures, hardware, bundled roofing supplies, furniture, mattress and box-spring sets and full unopened cans of paint.
Arrangements for pickup and drop-off of donations can be made by contacting Carlile at (870) 793-1999 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or email@example.com.