Recycling Homes, ReStoring Dignity

Staff Writer

If you’re a contractor or builder and considering hiring a dumpster to place the overspill of your renovations or handiwork – think again. Perhaps you’re looking to buy some new furniture for your home and thought that your old pieces could be thrown out? Well, there’s something much better.

Since 2005, Louisville’s Habitat ReStore has been collecting hundreds of items each month at their stores around the Metro area and sending all proceeds to Habitat for Humanity – the international charity that builds homes for families that are most in need.

In the back of each store is a receiving area where people can drop off their unwanted furniture, fixtures, fittings and hardware to be processed. Soon after those items make their way out onto the sales floor, usually to be quickly snapped up by eager bargain hunters.

“This store gets close to 600 drop-off donations per month,” explains Dale Douthat, director of Habitat ReStore in Louisville. “It’s just people like you and I, doing something in their house, taking down a ceiling fan, buying a new couch, they come and they drop it off.”

The benefit that Douthat sees in the system is first and foremost environmental. Perfectly good items are not simply being discarded, but rather re-purposed – allowed to live on.

“If an item comes here it stays out of the landfill, most importantly,” Douthat adds. “We [Habitat ReStore] keep an average of 4 million pounds of usable material out of landfills each year, between the three stores we have in Louisville.”

The key for Douthat, aside from the environmental impact, is the fact that so many people benefit from the items on sale in his stores.

“We keep the item in use,” Douthat explains. “We sell it for a really cheap price, somebody gets to buy it for a discount, and they get to keep using it. A great example of the perfect way that this works is the kitchen cabinets. Imagine you’re doing a kitchen remodel. Typically, people take the old cabinets out, the appliances, the light fixtures and throw them away. But now there’s an outlet for that.

“Things like cabinets are very useful, even if they’re out of date, because somebody can use them, even if it’s just for their garage or basement. Those cabinets come to us, the donor gets the tax deduction, and somebody else gets to buy those cabinets to fix their house up, and so on.”

While there are items that Douthat and his team don’t accept for safety reasons, such as hot tubs, unframed mirrors, pianos or anything that is in disrepair, they are keen to stress that there are plenty of  items that they’re always looking for. These include: appliances in complete working order, kitchen cabinets and counter-tops, tools, roofing, lighting fixtures and ceiling fans and furniture of any kind (as long as it’s free of tears, stains, and general breakage). Even doors are in high demand.

“We sell easily over $100,000 in used doors per year,” Douthat adds. “You would never think of doors, but they’re constantly coming in and going out of the store.”

Help is one thing that Douthat and his team are always looking for. With only 26 full-time staff across their three locations, Habitat ReStore is always in need of volunteers to help through the everyday process.

“All of the stuff that’s back in the processing room – the sorting, pricing, cleaning, bagging and tagging that’s what volunteers do,” Douthat explains. “We have around 20 [volunteers] at this location [Hikes Point Plaza] but we really need around 60. We’re always looking for volunteers and that’s true of all of our locations.”

And of course, the end product of all of this is the fact the funds go towards a home for a family in need, something that has motivated Douthat ever since he left his position as an advertising executive to become more involved in the community, trying to make a difference. This year Habitat for Humanity in Kentucky hopes to finish 23 homes in the area, having already constructed over 400 in their 30 years in Kentucky.

“We’re helping families become homeowners,” Douthat concludes. “The folks who qualify for a Habitat house have to purchase that house, but they work really hard to get it. They have to work 400 hours of sweat equity, helping other people build their house or working in the store – so I get to meet all of them.”

“And then you go to the dedication day, when they [the families] actually get their house, and you see all of their emotions when they finally have a stable house for their family and their children. It’s amazing.”

For more information on store locations visit For more information about volunteering call 502.805.1411.