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Home Sweet Home

By Melanie Moffett
In Center Block
Feb 25th, 2014
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HFHR 003

Habitat for Humanity of Ouachita ReStore Helps Change Lives
by Angela Genusa

Need a new door to replace that your old one? A porcelain sink for the bathroom? A computer desk that’s as good as new? Or perhaps just some kitchenware at bargain prices? Habitat for Humanity of Ouachita ReStore may have just what you’re looking for. The local ReStore, which is already open to the public for shopping, will celebrate its grand opening on Friday, March 14, at 11 a.m. with a ribbon cutting by the Monroe Chamber of Commerce at the store at 2308 Washington St. in Monroe.

The nonprofit home improvement store and donation center sells new and gently used items, such as furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances to the public at a fraction of the retail price. The ReStore focuses on home improvement goods donated by manufacturers, distributors, dealers and residents. And by shopping and donating to the ReStore, you are supporting a good cause: All proceeds from sales go to Habitat of Humanity of Ouachita, which makes home ownership affordable for low-income residents of the parish.

“The mission of the ReStore is to further the ministry of Habitat for Humanity,” said Larry Head, executive director of the

Habitat for Humanity of Ouachita ReStore. “We do that by providing additional funding through the sale of merchandise so that Habitat for Humanity of Ouachita, Inc.—a nonprofit Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty and substandard housing—can achieve its goals.” Habitat for Humanity is not a giveaway program, Head said. Houses are sold to partner families at no profit, financed with affordable, no-interest loans. Mortgage payments are used to build still more Habitat homes.

Since becoming an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International in 1994, Habitat for Humanity of Ouachita has built 49 houses for people in Ouachita Parish, counting homes in Monroe, West Monroe and Sterlington, Head said. The 49 homes provide safe, affordable shelter for 161 people (116 of whom are children). The business plan of the ReStore calls for generating enough funds from its sales to fund the building of one additional house every year.

The funds generated by sales at the ReStore go toward building homes for people like Lynn Sherman of Monroe. Sherman helped build her own home and move into it in March 2009 with Habitat of Humanity of Ouachita’s assistance. The working mother of four sons had been renting a house that had been damaged by a fire, but never repaired. Her application was approved in 2008. “I’ll never forget the night I found out I was getting my own home. I was in the beauty shop getting my hair done. I jumped straight up out of that chair I was so excited.”

A person must meet four basic criteria to apply: 1) be a northeast Louisiana resident for 6 months; 2) have a housing need; 3) have the ability to pay (with minimum and maximum income guidelines); and 4) invest “sweat equity” in the house and partner with Habitat for Humanity of Ouachita. “We require that the individual or family has to help build their house and other folks’ houses and work within the spirit of the program and with the staff,” he said.

The benefits of home ownership to both residents and communities are well-documented, Head said. “For low-income families, the benefits are much more empowering than for others who are more fortunate,” he said. “One of the biggest benefits of home ownership is improved childhood outcomes. For low-income families, opportunities are not as widespread as for others. Renters tend to move around more than homeowners, and if you have kids you move them from one school or from one class to another. Iin general, you’re not as transient and you have that stability.”

Head said home ownership also leads to more involvement and activity in the community and in local neighborhoods, such as in church and school. It also boosts the local economy, Head said, by adding to the tax base for the city and the parish. Homeowners also buy materials to repair their houses, furnishings and other goods. Home ownership is a good deal for all involved, Head said.

Sherman agrees. “Having my own home changed my life tremendously,” she said. “Since I’ve been living in this house, I am more content, more satisfied.” Sherman said she helps take care of the neighborhood, by doing things like mowing an empty lot next to her house. “It’s nice and quiet here; I sleep good. I’m at peace here.”

Not only did home ownership change Sherman’s life, it transformed the lives of her sons, now 18, 21, 22 and 24. Two of them have graduated from college, one is in the military and the youngest is now enrolled at Grambling State University in Ruston. “They have a home to come to and it makes a difference to them,” Sherman said. “They still have their rooms with all their medals, trophies, everything. And they are so happy that they have somewhere to call home.”

Sherman sums up the ministry of Habitat for Humanity of Ouachita nicely: “It’s a blessing to have something that you can call your own home.

Habitat for Humanity of Ouachita ReStore is located at 2308 Washington St in Monroe, LA, 71201, (318) 737-1112. Store hours are 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday. ReStore currently needs prayers, donations, volunteers and customers. The following volunteer positions are available: cashiers, show room salespersons, donations pickup/processing and warehouse attendants. For more information, call the store or see its web site at http://www.hfho.org/restore/index.php or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/monroerestore.