Habitat overcomes donation obstacles

Posted Saturday, May 4, 2019 9:30 pm


Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, in its mission to bring affordable housing to our community, was recently gifted a large amount of items, which it is now able to sell through its ReStore.

The donated item was a massive quantity of backer board and tiles given by the disaster relief organization Operation Compassion.

Contractors use backer board as a foundation for ceramic tile. Unlike wood-based materials like plywood or products that contain wood, backer board lacks the organic matter that will promote rot, mold, shrink  or decomposition. Since backer board is porous, grout, mortar and thinset adhere well to it.

With all these construction benefits, the ReStore being able to sell the backer board would offer a cheaper alternative for local contractors. The issue, however, was the sheer number of pallets of the product, which each weigh a significant amount, and their necessary storage.

There were 170 pallets of backer board and 150 pallets of tile.

“Obviously, since we’re a donation-driven organization, we’re happy to take all donations,” stated Dave Williams, ReStore manager. “The issue with this is  we just don’t have room for all these pallets at our ReStore.”

While it may not have the space, Habitat certainly has connections through its staff and board of directors, and shortly after hearing of the issue, Habitat financial director Rick Smith reached out to  Lynn Jones, who owns several warehouses in the area. Despite the growing economy and resulting lack of warehouse space due to increased usage, Jones was kind enough to donate 5,000-6,000 square feet for Habitat to use to store the backer board and tiles.

After nailing down a storage location, Williams said they breathed a sigh of relief, until  they realized the next challenge would be figuring out how to move hundreds of heavy pallets.

Seeking someone with a tractor trailer they could borrow, Habitat also reached out to Bailey Co. Inc, which supplies forklifts, to load the pallets onto the still-needed truck. The company generously gave Habitat half off its normal rate, and even delivered the forklift for free.

Habitat receiving manager Tommy Stovall was tasked to move the pallets on Wednesday and Thursday, so getting a truck was the store’s top priority.

Meta McGuire, Habitat donor engagement manager, knew a former coworker named A.J., who used to be a truck driver and knew of a trucking company called Direct Transportation that might be able to help them.

Sure enough, Paul Bowen with Direct Transportation contacted her and said he could spare a truck on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

A Direct Transportation trucker named Trapper and his wife showed up Wednesday morning and transported three full loads of pallets to the warehouse for Habitat. He stated he was happy to help and called it his “tithe.”

Following three hours of work on Trapper’s part, Williams received a call from Randall Bailey with Operation Compassion. Bailey told him he had several volunteers ready to load up a tractor trailer they’d acquired to transport even more of the pallets for Habitat.

“So because of this, we had three full tractor trailers going back to back to back all day on Wednesday,” Williams happily stated.

He added how this occasion goes to show how much can be done when a small team — like at Habitat — puts their heads together.

“It’s amazing the amount of generosity we’ve seen during this time,” Williams added. “Lynn Jones is sacrificing income to give us a space to store this. Operation Compassion donated it all in the first place, and Trapper and his wife donated their time to come help us move it all along with Operation Compassion.”

The backer board and tiles will be highly useful for contractors. At $5 per sheet, it’s also being sold much cheaper than standard pricing around $10-12 per sheet. The ReStore has quarter-inch and half-inch sheets, and has already attracted the attention of the Ocoee Region Builders Association.

ORBA member Dennis Epperson posted photos of himself purchasing the backer board on Facebook, thus spreading awareness further.

Williams said the backer board is going to be a significantly helpful resource for ORBA especially.

If all pallets sell, Habitat stands to make approximately $75,000. The pallets are one of various construction-related items the ReStore sells, others being flooring, cabinets, furniture and now even paint. Of these items, most are donated, so supplies are limited; however, Habitat has the budget to purchase three items, including laminate flooring, paint and paint supplies.

Due to the growing size of the ReStore, Williams and the Habitat team are in need of more volunteers. Everyone is encouraged to come out, introduce yourself and volunteer your time to help make Cleveland even greater.

For more information, go to www.habitatofcleveland.org.

Habitat is located at 300 Grove Avenue and may be reached at 423-473-4610.