It may seem surprising, but 2020 has been a good year for the Lebanon Area Habitat for Humanity.
Facing restrictions on travel and other types of entertainment, many people focused their attention on their homes. That trend provided a boost for stores which sell building materials and other related products.
The Lebanon Habitat for Humanity ReStore benefited from this boost, said executive director Kristina Breshears. The Restore closed for a few weeks in the spring when the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions went into effect. But when the doors opened, the customers returned.
“We made more in sales when we opened our store back up in May. Our sales have been way up,” Breshears said.
Kira Johnson, the executive program assistant for the Lebanon Area Habitat for Humanity, said there wasn’t just a boost in sales.
“We got a lot of donations, too. It wasn’t just a lot of patronage, it was a lot of people giving and donating, which is equally important,” Johnson said. “The community showed up.
We broke records.”
The result is that the Lebanon program has much more stock on hand than it can display and sell through its ReStore location at 566 S. Main Street. The nonprofit organization has also filled a second storage location with donated items, as well as three semi-trailers.
In response, the organization has launched its Building a Better Future capital campaign. The goal is to raise $250,000, which will be used to acquire a much larger property to provide a home for all of Habitat’s services in Lebanon.
“It will house the ReStore, administrative offices, our training center, and the construction program,” Breshears said.
This larger facility will allow the organization to recruit more volunteers and offer more services. One example is Habitat’s recycling program. The group currently accepts donations of metal, paint, and electronics, among other items. The recycling program provides a service to the community and provides a steady revenue stream for the nonprofit.
If a larger site can be acquired, this recycling program can be expanded.
The Lebanon Habitat program is currently moving forward with another new service. It has launched the Home Repair and Preservation program to serve low-income homeowners. This project was given a boost by an $83,500 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust and the goal is to provide low-cost repairs for 50 homes in the next two years.
The organization has one home building project currently in progress. The next Lebanon Habitat home will be built on a .18-acre lot in Sodaville. Breshears said they have permits in place for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home. The final plans will depend on the needs of the family, she said.
Fifteen families have applied to be the partners on the project and a decision will be made in the coming weeks, with construction set to begin in early spring.
“As soon as the rain subsides. We’re hoping March or April,” Breshears said.
Johnson said the location is ideal.
“This is for a family, secluded and quiet. Kids can play in the street and be on their bikes and have fun and be kids,” Johnson said.
Breshears noted that many people mistakenly believe that recipients receive Habitat homes for free. In reality, every family which partners with the program provides “sweat equity” in the project and then purchases the home for the amount it cost to build.
Johnson, who graduated from Oregon State University in September, said working with Habitat for Humanity has helped her realize how great the need is for more affordable housing.
“We’re facing a housing affordability crisis. There is no way that someone who is working a full-time, minimum-wage job, can afford the average rent in Oregon,” Johnson said. “Housing should not take up more than 30% of your overall expenses. A lot of people are functioning at 50%.”
The Lebanon Area Habitat for Humanity has built 30 homes since it launched, with nine of those homes being built by the Sweet Home branch before they merged in 2012.
Under the organization’s by-laws, each affiliate must build at least one new home every three years.
Breshears would like to greatly increase that pace.
“We’d love to do three to five homes a year,” Breshears said.
One hurdle for the organization is acquiring new building sites. In addition to the location for this next home, the group also owns a .56-acre lot in Sodaville. It hopes to be able to place two homes on the property.
Les Gehrett's memorable stories from 2020
These five stories share the common theme of people working together to make the world a better place. Some of the stories look back at past events while others show people working to adapt to this very difficult year.
Inspired by a local cancer survivor, Lebanon firefighters raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Lebanon High School names its court in honor of basketball coach Dave Winters.
Navy veteran Paul Wilson, a resident of the Edward C. Allworth Veterans' Home, is remembered for his loyalty to his friends.
In a summer marked by the cancellation of many beloved events, drive-in movies at Cheadle Lake helped bring people together.