Thrift store, housing nonprofit replaces building, changes name | News

The local group running a thrift store for many years and supporting construction of affordable homes is making significant changes, but much will remain the same, said Luella Maine, the store manager.

“We are the same people, we just have a different name,” Maine said last week at the former Habitat for Humanity thrift store at 223 Second Ave. SE.

The group has switched its affiliation to a different organization, the international nonprofit The Fuller Center for Housing, that better suits the Quincy operation, local representatives said. The local group’s new name is Quincy Valley Thrift Store – The Fuller Center for Housing.

The organization is also nearing the home stretch of a pivotal project to replace its aged store with a spacious, modern structure. The new store’s interior has yet to be finished. But, Bob Buys, a longtime member of the board who is leading the building project, said it could be ready as soon as Aug. 15.

“It’s been amazing,” Buys said.

Buys has been instrumental, said Ulises Infante, president of the board. Infante also serves as a volunteer associate pastor and is running for public office.

The previous store space consisted of two old houses joined together but not connected to the newer storage building in front. Floors were uneven. Repairs became an issue. So, the board decided about a year ago to build a new store, Buys said.

“That decision was based on an evaluation of the building. It didn’t meet code in many ways,” Maine said.

With the pandemic slowing everything down, the thinking was it was a good time, while making the switch to Fuller, to get the new building done and then emerge with the new name and new store.

The local group tore down the houses in winter to make way for the new building. With the demolition, the WaFd Bank in Quincy allowed the group to use a space in the bank for a retail sales outlet for a time, until two weeks ago.

Currently, the group is packing away donated items and not making sales, Maine said. Planning is underway for a grand opening of the new retail store but a date was not set as of Friday.

At 50’ by 63’, or almost 3,200 square feet, the new building is 6 feet wider and 12 feet longer than the previous store, and it is attached to the front building, eliminating the gap that was open to the weather. There are no partitions either – the store space is wide open.

Fortunately, the project has not been slowed by supply shortages much. The builders are being generous, and overall, the project has gone well.

“Our local people have been really, really good. Jack Tobin was a real soldier for Habitat. If there was ever a problem, he fixed it for time and material, and his son is the same way,” Buys said.

And it’s the same for the store building contractor, Silvas Construction, he said. The beautiful exterior brickwork was done by Curt Jones, a board member who donated his time.

“All of our neighbors have been gracious … we have not had any complaints” during the project, Maine said.

The city building inspector has been “just fabulous to work with,” Buys said.

“Everybody … has been positive about our new building, and they just want to do anything they can to help us realize our dream,” Maine said.

Agreeing on change

The decision to switch to the Fuller organization was not easy, Infante said, because Habitat has high name recognition, and the Quincy group had been with been with Habitat a long time. But the board was united. Part of the appeal of the Fuller organization is retaining local control of decisions and income.

“We are going be able to see the need and meet the need,” Infante said. “We definitely all agreed that this is going to be a change for the better … and we hope the community will continue to see us a organization that is here to help those in need.”

Buys summarized the organizational change saying it is still a nonprofit doing similar work.

“We’re building homes and doing what we can to help people that need the help,” Buys said.

The Fuller Center for Housing was created by the same person who founded Habitat for Humanity. But Fuller “is specifically for small communities,” Maine said.

“Our funds stay in our community, and our board of directors make the decisions how we spend our money,” she said, adding the money can stay here and be used for home repairs and building. Buys added that Fuller accepts gifts from its local partners but does not require 10% of gross like Habitat.

“That took a big chunk out of us all the time,” he said. “Here they are not requiring that, but we may give a gift whenever we want.”

Another factor behind the split was over the Quincy group not building a new home during the past two years, Buys said – the pandemic years.

“We were completely unable to follow and match their goals, like big cities can do,” Maine said. “Quincy just did not have the income. We just couldn’t do it.”

“For a long time, we were building a home a year. Then costs started creeping up on us. … It’s tougher than it was 20 years ago when we started,” Buys said.

With the construction of the new store, the group is not planning to build a home this year. But it did get new windows for the owner of a manufactured home. Buys said with Fuller, the group can help with things like that: If someone needs a wheelchair ramp, “We do that, too,” he said.

Volunteers

The years when the group did not build a new home were financially strong years, Buys said. Generous donors allowed the group to save nickels and dimes, and they added up. Running a store people want to shop in helps a lot, as well.

“We have so much stuff come in that is brand-new with the tag still on,” Buys said.

“We are very particular about what we put out. I want it to be wearable,” Maine said. “So that everybody in our community has access to wearable, affordable clothing and household items. … You can still come here and for $20 you can still buy a coat, a pair of winter boots, a hat and gloves, easily.”

Maine is the only paid individual working at the store, and about 30 volunteers help out.

“I just manage people,” she said. “The truly hard work, and the day to day, is by volunteers. I just kind of keep order going.”

The list of volunteers is deep, but the new store building may help there, too.

“We are thinking with the new facility we will draw some more people that will want to volunteer, and hopefully some younger ones,” Buys said. “There are a lot of us who are 75 to 85.”

For more information on The Fuller Center for Housing, visit https://fullercenter.org.






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