The retail branch operation of Habitat for Humanity, ReStore, has opened its doors in Hamilton bringing with it more than just the opportunity to purchase discounted home and building supplies.

Multiple affordable housing projects have begun to take shape around Hamilton, homes that have been supported by Habitat volunteers and funded by proceeds from the ReStore.

Lisa Wooten, a staff member at Habitat for Humanity’s new ReStore in Independence Plaza, arranges furniture on the showroom floor. (Staff photo by Nicole Viviano.)

The mission of Habitat for Humanity, a global nonprofit organization that helps low to moderate-income families build and secure homes, is one carried out by the new Hamilton ReStore, located in Independence Plaza.

The Hamilton location, which opened on Jan. 17, is the second ReStore opened by the local Habitat branch, bringing Habitat’s opportunities and assistance further north than its Route 38 store in Maple Shade.

The ReStore holds select inventory including appliances, furniture, home décor, glass and mirrors, electronics, lighting flooring, bath and plumbing supplies, cabinets, countertops, doors, outdoor home supplies and tools.

The new location is fully stocked thanks to an off-site warehouse location that houses any overflow and corporate donations from organizations such as Wayfair and La-Z-Boy Inc. The stores cycle their donations accordingly through the warehouse depending on what needs replenishing.

Proceeds from both ReStores are pooled and distributed to support the affordable housing projects in Mercer and Burlington counties. With a new influx of shoppers, donors and volunteers at Hamilton, the growing resources should allow Habitat to help more low to moderate-income families in the area.

Two local projects supported by ReStore income can be seen on Parkinson Avenue in Hamilton. The projects began in late 2018, and both are about halfway done, with framing complete and roofs intact. The next step is siding. The projects take longer than commercial construction because they are built entirely by volunteers.

The homes already have families assigned to them. Annie Fox, the resource development director for Habitat’s local branch, said the families may not pay in a regular sense, but they do contribute “sweat equity.” By volunteering on their own homes, others’ homes and at the ReStore, the families pay for the work done by Habitat.

Fox said, in Mercer County, Habitat has four projects in Hightstown, two in Princeton and one in Ewing Township, as well as a new one in Hamilton, on Genesee Street.

“I think having the Habitat for Humanity ReStore here in Hamilton is not only good for our residents here to be able to provide high quality furniture products at a much lower, discounted rate, but also to be able to help a nonprofit that takes the money generated from the store and reinvest it back in Hamilton’s community by the different home building projects they have going on in Hamilton not only now but in the future,” Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin said. “So it’s really a win-win for Hamilton and its residents.”

At the core of Habitat’s retail and housing initiatives is the volunteers who carry out the labor by working at the ReStore to building homes. These opportunities to help are now readily available to Hamilton residents.

The necessity of the volunteering portion of the ReStore is one facet that allows for homes to be erected and families to have roofs over their heads.

“It’s of tremendous importance,” Martin said.

The store utilizes volunteers to help with retail operations on a daily basis. Loading and unloading trucks, bringing merchandise to the sales floor, helping with stock and inventory and setting up products in a desirable way for customers are all ways in which volunteers help. From cleaning to greeting people and answering customer questions, they are a vital part of the Habitat for Humanity mission.

Planning to open a second ReStore location has been in the making for nearly three years, according to Lori Leonard, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Burlington County and Greater Trenton-Princeton. Knowing they wanted to take this step just left one question: where to set up shop?

The local branch of Habitat originally just covered Burlington County until 2017 when it merged with Trenton’s branch, which consisted of mostly Mercer County.

The reach of the Burlington County and Greater Trenton-Princeton branch grew again this January, when it merged with the Millstone Basin Habitat. The branch now covers all of Mercer County and one-third of Middlesex County.

The directors and CEO all worked together to select the best location to service their wide reach. What followed was getting supporters and donors on board with the setup and costs associated with it.

“We knew we wanted another store, we knew we wanted it up in the Mercer County area and since we’ve merged with the Millstone Basin Habitat it just made sense to do it up in the Hamilton area,” Leonard said. “We’re looking forward to being able to provide opportunities for the people in the Mercer County community, to come out and shop at the ReStore. It always helps us, for our income and our revenue, to use that money to build more houses. And also awareness. Within the store there’s awareness for the Habitat program and how we serve the community still. It all worked out kind of seamlessly.”

The newly assumed areas that came with Millstone Basin Habitat also comes with four new home construction projects that are in progress on South Academy Road in Hightstown. Applications for two of the homes, that are near completion, are now open.

Last year, Habitat jumped into the Hamilton area with both feet. In addition to the homes on Parkinson Avenue, the organization chose Hamilton for the location of its first ever Habitat for Humanity Rock the Block event. More than 100 volunteers came out in May 2019 to support and help others with their housing and critical safety needs, that otherwise couldn’t be done. The force that volunteered and gave back to their community at the event showed how vital the Habitat volunteer process is and how willing Hamilton was ready to help.

This year’s Rock the Block will be hosted in Palmyra, located in Burlington County, on April 25.

“I just want to applaud Habitat for all they’ve done here in the Hamilton community,” Martin said. “They only recently came up to Hamilton through different mergers of different chapters of Habitat, but they’ve jumped in with both feet and got to work right away and we hope to be successful partners together with them now and into the future on other projects as well.”

The Hamilton ReStore is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., as well as on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aside from shopping and volunteering at their 2465 S. Broad Street location, patrons can donate supplies and funds to the store’s cause. The ReStore offers a free pick-up service for larger donations, such as furniture and appliances.

The new location of the ReStore is located in Independence Plaza, 2465 S. Broad St. in Hamilton. For more information, go online to habitatbcgtp.org/restore.