Best of the CRANDIC Spotlight: Habitat for Humanity ReStores

Iowa City’s Habitat for Humanity ReStore crew. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Q&A with Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore Co-Directors Thorin Peugh and Aaron Kiesey and Communications Coordinator for Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity Galen Hawthorne. Both ReStores won Best Appliance Store in Little Village’s 2020 Best of the CRANDIC competition.

What’s the most interesting appliance you’ve seen come through your doors?

IV: A gas chromatograph mass spectrometer. It was also the heaviest thing we’ve moved.

CV: A coffin! Wait — that’s not an appliance, but we really did have one donated once. We’ve been lucky enough to receive a few “collectable” appliances — Vintage Philco refrigerators and ovens, Singer sewing machines and even a giant loom! You truly never know what you’re going to find at ReStore on any given day.

Do you have relationships with contractors and local appliance stores, or are items generally donated by households and landlords?

IV: We do, to a degree. Amana/Maytag has been consistently amazing with us here in ReStore, as well as with the Habitat for Humanity affiliate. Slager Appliance and Appliance Barn have also been great to us over the years. We are called by real estate agents, occasionally, but the majority of our appliance donations are from our generous individual donor base in the area.

CV: The majority of our stock is gently used items donated by the public, but when contractors and appliance stores end up with a surplus of stuff that’s costly to ship back, we’re always happy if they think of us. Window Depot just donated 50 brand-new windows to ReStore at the end of November! Lowe’s and Phelans are known to send great stuff our way as well. We do also maintain a small selection of purchased products, from recycled paint to brand-new hand tools and floor rugs.

The Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore, November 2020. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

What are the most commonly rejected appliances people try to donate?

IV: Trash compactors and vintage dishwashers.

CV: Dishwashers — and anything gas. Since we don’t have a way to test them, we don’t want to sell them! Runner-up goes to non-working and dirty appliances — not much we can do with those.

What would you most like to communicate to the public about this service?

IV: We accept clean, working appliances with all their parts. We will even pick them up for free. There is a comprehensive list of what we do and do not accept on our website. You can schedule your pick-up there, too.

CV: When you shop, donate and volunteer at any ReStore you’re directly empowering Habitat for Humanity’s mission of building safe, decent, affordable housing in your community. You’re also helping divert hundreds of tons of usable materials from the landfill annually!

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 289.

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