The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted operations everywhere and non-profits have not been exempt. Habitat for Humanity, in particular, is feeling the strains of all operations coming to a halt amidst the pandemic.
“Obviously, finances are a big concern for us right now,” Todd Miller, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Delaware & Union Counties, said. “With our ReStore not being open for a month now, we’re being hit really hard.”
The Habitat for Humanity ReStore, located at 1161 Columbus Pike, Delaware, serves as the biggest revenue source for the local non-profit. Donations of new and gently used furniture, appliances, home goods, building materials and more are accepted, and the ReStore sells home improvement items at a fraction of the retail costs.
For years, the ReStore has paid for all administrative costs for the local Habitat for Humanity branch, which Miller previously said has allowed the non-profit to boast that all dollars donated go to building or repairing affordable homes.
The ReStore was forced to shut down operations on March 18 as the virus broke out, however, and it remains to be seen when it will be able to open. As Miller pointed out, even after the store does reopen, it’s hard to say if people will even be in a position where they can afford to spend their money in the store.
Having just moved the ReStore from Curtis Street to a larger building on Columbus Pike last summer, Miller said its financial situation was already somewhat precarious for the Habitat for Humanity chapter before the virus.
“I’m worried that we’re going to struggle financially,” Miller said of the impact of the ReStore being down.
Miller said the Habitat staff, for the most part, has been furloughed and many have filed for unemployment. He said he has applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, but it is not yet known whether or not he has been approved.
Most importantly, construction of the homes has also been forced to shut down. Miller said there are three current builds Habitat is working on, all in different phases. The first, he said, is the Apostles Build, where 16 churches in the community came together to build a home.
The Apostles Build is finished and is being sold on April 30. However, there will be no home dedication ceremony, unfortunately. Miller said the absence of a home dedication ceremony, which will be a first, “would have seemed unthinkable a month and a half ago.”
Habitat’s first spring build, located on Chamberlain Street in Delaware, was in a place where development had to continue briefly for Habitat, even after the ReStore and office building shut down on March 18. Miller said the walls of the home were already up at the time of the outbreak, meaning the home needed to be roofed if work on the project was going to stop for the foreseeable future.
Miller said the construction manager and a small group of volunteers roofed the home and installed the windows and doors, marking the last bit of work Habitat completed. He added that some work will continue at the home as contractors such as the electricians and HVAC crew will still be working on the home.
Habitat had planned 2020 to be perhaps its most ambitious year of development yet, Miller said, including a second spring build. The foundation for the second spring build, which is located on Stilson Street in Delaware, was put in place before the shutdown, which is how it will sit until operations are running again.
The halt in work isn’t a product of a shortage of willing volunteers. Miller said he is still seeing plenty of people reaching out about volunteering, probably as a means of getting out of the house in any way possible, he joked. However, as it just isn’t safe, Miller said the volunteers have to be turned away.
Times are tough, and the unknown factors associated with the virus make for difficult projections. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s recent announcement of businesses being permitted to reopen in phases starting on May 1 presents a light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps.
Regardless of what’s to come, Miller said his emphasis is on keeping it upbeat amidst all the uncertainty.
“I’m trying to stay positive,” he said. “I know we have a lot of generous and dedicated supporters and volunteers, and we have been through tough times before … We’ll see what the future brings.”
Perhaps other means of relief could soon come. Barry Smith, owner of central Ohio real estate investment company Homesmith, announced he will be donating a portion of the profits from each of its Ohio property transactions to local Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the Columbus area and throughout the state, including Habitat for Humanity MidOhio and Habitat for Humanity of Delaware & Union Counties.
Smith, who has volunteered with Habitat for nearly 10 years, said, “Everyone deserves decent affordable housing and Habitat for Humanity has been a leader in giving low-income partner families and individuals a hand up since 1976. Habitat couldn’t do all it does without relying heavily on donations and volunteers, and Homesmith is proud to pledge our ongoing support for such a worthy cause.”
Miller said he is unsure if Habitat for Humanity of Delaware & Union Counties will receive any of the donations from Smith and Homesmith.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit www.habitatdelawareunion.com or call 740-363-9950.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.