Home repair supplies

The "Secret Place"

by Patrice Blackburn


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A few years ago, we moved into a crumbling mobile home left behind by my Uncle when he passed away. Financial necessity made us change our lives, and for what seemed like an eternity, we could only dream about the remodeling projects on Home and Garden TV or the do-it-yourself repairs advertised by the home improvement centers. We made excuses for our house when people turned up their noses, and shared visions with visitors who only grinned as if to say, "Right, I'll believe it when I see it."

One day, I saw a small ad for a place called The ReStore in Tyler, Texas. Run by Habitat for Humanity of Smith County (the organization that builds homes to families in need), the ad claimed that they sold home repair and building supplies at discount prices. I was skeptical of the ad because all we possessed at the time was $50. (Fifty dollars, at most places, is not even enough to replace a broken toilet.) The type of discount we were seeking was not one that saved 50 cents but one that made it seem like miracles could happen.

At a home improvement center, you would be blessed to find a new front door for under $100 (if the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter is aligned with Mars). Our brand new front door (with frame) totaled $15. Toilets at the "center" are roughly $20 for the tank, $35 for the bowl, and then there is the hardware. At the ReStore, we found a toilet for $20. Lumber to repair our floors was $3.50 for 4 X 8 sheets. We also found a built-in dishwasher for $20, living room carpet (nice and clean) for $15, and a brand new chandelier (with tags still intact) for $12.50. The same light fixture was $149 elsewhere.

Over the next few months, we bought tiles, paint, fencing, and sinks. Today, our house is beginning to feel not like an excuse but a home that we find more pride in everyday.

There are Habitat for Humanity ReStores located throughout the country. Some items, as workers in Tyler will tell you, are materials left over from Habitat building projects. Some items are donated by individuals or businesses that receive tax credit for their contributions. Other items may be previous floor samples (like our chandelier) that outlived their use, but are priceless gems to people like me. The proceeds go toward building more Habitat homes, ultimately creating a way for everyone to benefit from this project.

Originally, we had decided that we would not tell anyone about our "secret place." And then I met a woman who was buying charcoal for a grill that she was using to cook on because she could not afford a stove. Of course, I had to tell her. It was not about just saving a dime. Instead, it was about not having enough dimes to afford to cook a decent meal. It was about having a little shred of dignity left in a life that was already tough enough.

Whether you're making an old barn into a house for under $10,000 (as a man in East Texas did) or you are searching for a way to make repairs that might otherwise have been impossible, the ReStore may be your answer.

The house is not done. We are taking our time. The work is not easy, but now it is not just a dream. The skeptics now say "Wow! How did you do that?". And it is we who now quietly smile.


To find the ReStore nearest you, call 1-800-422-4828 Ext. 2552 or visit habitat.org/cd/local/ and use the zip code search to find local branches.

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