Habitat for Humanity opens ReStore

ReStore volunteers Robby Borders, left, and Heath Callahan load up one of the sheds with donations to be sanitized.

Loudon County Habitat for Humanity ReStore and construction for the critical repair program are slowly resuming business.

The ReStore resumed operations May 5 under shortened hours 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. No more than 15 customers will be allowed in the store at once. After 1 p.m., customers can call ahead and reserve an individual shopping time where they will be the only one in the store aside from staff or volunteers, Christy Callahan, ReStore manager said.

“I usually give them anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, possibly an hour, depending on who it is and what their mobility issues may be, because if they’re in a wheelchair or walker and need a little more time, then I’ll work around it,” Callahan said. “They just call me and let me know that they’re needing a special time because they’re uncomfortable, and we want to make them feel accommodated as much as possible. … So far we’ve had a few shoppers. We haven’t had an overwhelming amount of the individual shoppers, and those people have been very grateful to have that time alone, because if they’re not high risk, then they know someone in their family or loved ones that they live with who are.”

The shortened hours offer volunteers an appropriate amount of time to safely disinfect new donations, Tony Gibbons, Loudon County Habitat for Humanity executive director, said.

The ReStore suspended operations March 23, but Gibbons said staff and volunteers were still hard at work.

Callahan said she’s grateful for volunteers, understanding they share with other organizations, and they couldn’t do it without them.

“I want to brag on Christy a little bit and the volunteers and staff that have been here,” Gibbons said. “During the off time, most of the staff, maybe one volunteer, came in and cleaned the whole store, sifted through some of the goods that probably needed to be rotated out, started to look at how can we restage the floor so we can create some kind of safe environment for the COVID-19 considerations. They were hard at work making sure we have the physical space set up so the donations can be received in a clean way. They can be set aside for a period of time before being brought into the building and put out on the floor for sale so it’s a change in our process.”

Gibbons was excited that Habitat construction continued with adjustments.

“The impact (is) from our construction side where we had two new construction houses underway that were within weeks of finishing up,” he said. “As we saw the need to implement social distancing … we were already making adjustments to reduce the number of people on our job sites, reassigned some tasks to staff to finish up the jobs, and as a result the two families have been able to still purchase and move into their new homes. The worst of it was they were delayed a few weeks so I feel pretty good about that. We’ve got an incredible team that adjusted seamlessly and two more families that are living the Habitat dream.”

The critical repair program is resuming with some outside work, but senior citizens are left unserved.

“Unfortunately, there are a number of seniors in this community with immediate needs in safety and accessibility,” Gibbons said. “They were already in our program, and we were lining them up on our schedule, and we had to put a pause on that because they’re the most vulnerable populations, and we’re trying to make sure we don’t have a situation that harms them.”

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