Store meets housing needs

Some household items and furniture are on display. These items and clothing are the store’s best-sellers. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

 

By Darlene Paterson
Empire Press Correspondent

From left, Yolanda Alvarez, clothing manager; Elva Verduzco, volunteer; Ellen Dunbar, volunteer; Karen Dobrasz, volunteer; and Frants Holm-Nielsen, store manager, at the Chelan Habitat for Humanity Store on June 26. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

Habitat for Humanity has been functioning in the Chelan Valley for over 20 years. In 2005, a generous donation from the Margaret S. Freer Estate made it possible to build the Habitat for Humanity Store located at 518 E. Woodin Ave. in Chelan. The store’s grand opening was Dec.  8, 2007.

All funds received over and above the store’s operating expenses and worker’s salaries are given to the Habitat Building Fund. Lani Rahm is the executive director.

To date, Chelan Habitat for Humanity has built 17 homes. They will build a duplex this year on a large parcel of land in Chelan. The property, overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, will eventually hold eight homes. Most of funds currently available will go toward property development.

Apart from individual donations and funds received from a spring and fall rummage sale at the Methodist Church in Manson, the store is the main source of income for the building fund.

Store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Donations are received the same days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the alley entrance. Frants Holm-Nielsen, store manager and assistant director, said they receive about 1,000 items per day at the store — anything from a pair of socks to a large piece of furniture. Fernando Sanchez is the receiving manager.

Items donated are taken inside the lower level where volunteers sort, price and place items either into bins that will be taken upstairs to sell or into bags to be recycled.

“Tomorrow will be the fourth time this month ARC from Tacoma has come and emptied about 5,000 pounds of unusable clothing and household items from our storage shed,” Holm-Nielsen said. “We do get payment for what is hauled away, so that helps.”

In addition to four salaried workers, between one and 10 volunteers help out daily and 40 to 50 people volunteer annually.

Customers browse the shelves at the Chelan Habitat for Humanity Store. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

“Besides people who come in because they want to help,” Holm-Nielsen said. “We get people assigned to us for community service and sometimes high school students help out as a part of their senior projects.”

Holm-Nielsen will have been employed by the store for three years in October. He has made some basic changes, such as removing plywood walls and cubbies to enlarge the furniture and electronics room in the basement.

“Because there is more room outside, I hope to open up the back this fall so we will have more room down here for large items,” he said. Holm-Nielsen moved to Chelan from Denmark in 1985 and previously owned Columbia Furniture in downtown Chelan.

Volunteers are divided into areas for sorting incoming items such as clothing, linens, small household items and electronics. “We are receiving, sorting and pricing as fast as we can,” Holm-Nielsen said.

Clothing Manager Yolanda Alvarez keeps her volunteers busy sorting and preparing clothing. Anything soiled, stained, torn or worn is rejected. Only the best is put on racks in the store.

“We try to have everything decent and easy to find,” Holm-Nielsen said. “We get a lot of compliments on how clean and organized the store is.”

Clothing, household items and furniture are the three best-selling items, with clothing amounting to 28 to 31 percent of total sales. But most anything a person may be looking for can be found in the store. Shoes of every kind and description, purses, accessories, jewelry, sunglasses, movies, CDs, toys, seasonal items and lots of books are available in every price range.

Things not needed at the store are computer monitors, TV sets and old-fashioned office supplies. They are currently overstocked on coffeemakers as well.

“We like to rotate items throughout the store so our repeat customers can always find something new,” Holm-Nielsen said. “And every day we have something on sale.”

On Wednesday mornings, Holm-Nielsen and Assistant Manager Lydia Parsons go to the Chelan radio station in order to announce weekly deals and the 50 percent off “phrase.” If customers say the phrase when they check out, they receive 50 percent off one item.

Holm-Nielsen also uses Twitter and Facebook for advertising.

Expensive items and collectibles that sell for more than $100 are advertised and sold by the store on eBay. A volunteer comes in once a week to maintain their eBay account.

Expensive items such as antiques and collectibles are welcome. “I believe people who donate valuable things like to know it sells for a good amount of money,” Holm-Nielsen said. “That is why they donate it.”

Large pictures showing families who have received Habitat for Humanity homes are displayed on walls in the store. Also displayed behind the checkout counter are the mission, vision and principles of Habitat for Humanity.

Their mission is, “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build houses, community and hope.” Their vision is, “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

Habitat’s principles are to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ; focus on shelter; advocate for affordable housing; promote dignity and hope; and support sustainable and transformative development.

Volunteers, donations and shoppers are always needed. For more information go to chelanhabitat.com or visit their Facebook page.