Games, prizes at ReStore 3rd anniversary celebration



By James Saxton
Times Correspondent



“Treasures are all around us,” said Jean Sellers, “especially when you buy older items. Sometimes you don’t know the significance of the things you buy until you live with them a bit.”



Preparing for the third anniversary of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore are, from left: store manager Jason Floyd, warehouse manager John “Barnzee” Barnes, sales associate Gwen Peacock and volunteer Thomas Gregory. The celebration from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday features games, food, prizes and surprise bargains at 1465 Highway 20 West (behind the Fidelity Bank) in McDonough. Photo by James Saxton



Significance, in the form of precious unlocked memories, is just what the retiring McDonough insurance clerk said she found after she bought an old armoire from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in McDonough early last year.

“I bought it because it had a certain elegance and was made of fairly sturdy wood,” Sellers said. “It’s not particularly old, I don’t think, and might have been expensive had I bought it anywhere else. So I bought it and put it in my house and it fits its space perfectly.”

It was when Sellers brought home her elderly mother a few weeks later that things got interesting.

Retired schoolteacher Mitzi Simmons, who at the time lived in an assisted-living facility in Douglasville, was often almost completely silent in later years as she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. The 92-year-old lit up, however, when she entered her daughter’s den and stared at the armoire like it was old friend.

“She turned her body to me and she looked like she was struggling to say something, which she did a lot, but she was all excited. ‘Murnma’s chest,’ was all she got out. Murnma is Mama’s name for her grandmother, Reba Potts, who helped raise her. I tried to tell her it really couldn’t be, that this chest wasn’t old enough, but she kept right on, trying to talk. She sat down facing the armoire, away from me. Then, she just opened up, and spoke so clearly and normally, like she was 20 years younger. I was startled but so grateful!”

Simmons told her daughter a stream of three stories about Potts, packed with vivid details, never once glancing her way, as though she were telling her stories to the armoire.

“I wish I’d thought to record it, Sellers said. “The best of the three stories was about how Murnma, who probably was born in the late 1870s, had watched as her fiancée traded a prized hog for an admired china set as a wedding gift. Murnma put the china in the chest and loved it so. The china was passed on eventually to Mama, and my sister has it.

“After the third story, she stopped talking, and that was it; back to silence and not being aware,” Sellers said, noting her mother died a few months later. “But, oh, for those few minutes, God swung the gate open again. Those memories about my great grandmother are more precious to me than I can tell you. And it all started at the ReStore.”

What’s a ReStore? It’s a nonprofit home improvement store and donation center that benefits the work of Habitat for Humanity, which not only builds or repairs homes for those in need, it “builds strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter,” its website says.

The McDonough ReStore is celebrating its third anniversary Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with games, prizes, popcorn, two food trucks and storewide bargains. Shoppers find bargains and quite a few treasures as they shop, said store manager Jason Lloyd, and that goes double on anniversary day. “It’s going to be special on Saturday. Come out, see what the fuss is about and have some fun while helping us serve needs.”

Once people understand what their money and time creates for the needy, they enjoy it even more. “We have a lot of people who come in here and shop on a weekly basis, and many who visit every day, just to see what treasures do show up. There’s something different all the time, and it’s sold at bargain prices and benefits so many.”

The McDonough ReStore – a 19,000-square-foot retail space at 1465 Hwy. 20 W., behind the Fidelity Bank (next to the Chick-fil-A, close to I-75 exit 218) – was opened by the Southern Crescent chapter of Habitat for Humanity, headquartered in Jonesboro and serving Henry, Clayton and Fayette counties.

Over the three years, Lloyd said he’s most proud of the support the community has offered the ReStore. “We’ve seen this place really grow to where we are now, and we want to keep growing. We’re really grateful for how the community has embraced us. They show up, over and over, to shop, to donate and to volunteer. There’s a lot of love for others in Henry County.”

And that’s important for the future of this Habitat ministry, he said. “Our goal, through our story and the work we do, is to tug at the heartstrings of people. Why? We build simple, decent and affordable houses for low income families. If we can get people to understand how impactful their shopping and donating and volunteering is to those who need the hand up, it becomes an amazing feeling to know that you can give back to meet big needs on that level.”

Donations of furniture, appliances and home décor items are taken at the store. The donation hotline is 770-962-4200.

The McDonough ReStore employs seven paid staff members and uses 20 to 40 volunteers every week. New volunteers are always needed, he said. No prior experience or building materials knowledge is needed, Floyd said, and volunteering is easy. At suburbanatlantarestores.org, click the blue Volunteer button. Or, drop by or call the store at 678-782-5111. “You’ll be provided everything you need,” he said, “including a brief orientation session before your first shift.”

And it’s shopping opportunities like the anniversary celebration Saturday that make a difference, said Drew Meyer, senior director of Habitat stores. “Buying a couch, or anything else, Saturday or any day, well, to you it may seem like just another purchase, but it’s not. Oh no. That purchase has an impact that is really pretty amazing. You buy the things you need, and at the same time, you’re helping some family have a decent place to live, and for them, that one factor of reliable shelter – that can make all the difference. That can change everything.”