Touched by a cause, remodeler volunteers at nonprofit store
By James Saxton
For Thomas Gregory, volunteering at a nonprofit building supply store came down to a calling. That calling was reflected in what he witnessed on the first morning he volunteered.
Habitat for Humanity ReStore volunteer Thomas Gregory, right, helps Sandra Green of Detroit, a house guest of Cherlyn Cook of Locust Grove, load purchased home accessories in her vehicle. Photo by James Saxton
“The manager, Mr. Jason Floyd, and the assistant manager, Mr. Donnie Monk, they started off the meeting by bowing their heads. And actually, they do that every morning before they open the store. And oh, the prayer was deep, man. They prayed for everybody to be safe and be blessed, the volunteers, the staff, the donors, the buyers, everyone we touch. It was so humble, so touching. It really drew me in.”
A professional restorations and renovations expert for more than a dozen years, Gregory owns NCG Supreme, a residential and commercial remodeling company serving Henry County out of a Hampton office.
He’s busy, very busy, this time of year, and yet virtually every Saturday – the busiest day for building supply retail – and many weekdays, you can find Thomas Gregory at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in McDonough. When he’s not scheduled at a customer’s home or business, Gregory signs up for as many as 40 hours a week at the ReStore, especially in slower winter months.
A ReStore is a nonprofit home improvement store and donation center that benefits the work of Habitat for Humanity. The McDonough Habitat ReStore employs seven paid staff members and uses 20 to 40 volunteers every week.
Gregory said that he first began visiting ReStores in New York when he worked construction there 15 years ago. “When my wife Giselle and I moved here to Henry County, we researched and found this ReStore in McDonough. While shopping there, we realized that they’re such a nice crew, so amazing, such courteous service, but it was obvious they needed help, so I decided to volunteer. They made me feel so welcome.”
It was the cause itself, the benefit to the work of Habitat for Humanity, that most strongly drew Gregory to volunteer, he said. “It gives me a sense of fulfillment. If I can help someone fulfill that dream – that dream that everyone should want, of owning a home of their own – then I want to be a part of that. When they work alongside me, I can see their determination to be a homeowner and it fires me up. See, if we all chip in a little bit, it works.”
In December 2013, Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, headquartered on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro, opened in McDonough its first ReStore, a 19,000-square-foot retail space at 1465 Highway 20 West, behind the Fidelity Bank (next to the Chick-fil-A, close to I-75 exit 218). The ReStore sells new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances at a reduced price.
The ReStore is not just about local-based retail or even about selling new and used goods at a bargain price, said McDonough ReStore manager Jason Floyd, and that brings meaning for the volunteers.
“When they find out that their volunteering here is helping someone build a home, it really changes their perspective,” Floyd said. “Then, when they find that pocket of a couple or four hours of their week that they can give to their neighbors, or even 20 to 40 hours, they volunteer it because they know that it’s impactful.”
New volunteers are always needed, he said. No prior experience or building materials knowledge is needed, Floyd said, and volunteering is easy. At www.schabitat.org, under the Get Involved tab, click on Volunteer, click on the green Sign Up Now ReStore Volunteer link, and choose an upcoming four-hour shift.
“Fill out the form and a staff member will contact you. You’ll be provided everything you need,” he said, “including a brief orientation session before your first shift.” Or, one can volunteer by dropping by or calling the store at 678-782-5111.
Habitat for Humanity doesn’t simply build and give away free homes. Instead it builds a partnership with new homeowners, requiring them to participate with a time and learning investment that Habitat calls “sweat equity.” Habitat teaches these homeowners principles such as home maintenance and financial literacy.
In exchange, families receive affordable housing they might not otherwise have the opportunity to purchase – built or remodeled alongside them by a team of volunteers.
It was that unselfish volunteering spirit that Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity CEO Kem Kimbrough said attracted him to Habitat in the first place. “I was interested in the idea of people working together to build something permanent in the community, rather than individual effort.”
“This is the only non-profit organization I’ve found that makes such a profound transformation in people’s lives,” Kimbrough said, “not just with our homeowners and program participants, but also in the communities surrounding them – we make a tangible difference. It’s very satisfying to look at a vibrant, viable community and be able to say, ‘We built that.’”