Habitat finds a happy home in Freeland

“People like helping Habitat for Humanity,” said Sandra Stipe, manager of the nonprofit organization’s retail store in Freeland.

“People like helping Habitat for Humanity,” said Sandra Stipe, manager of the nonprofit organization’s retail store in Freeland.

“Habitat has hit on a good formula of helping people and having fun while we’re doing it,” she said with a smile.

The store, which opened in late 2011, occupies the building vacated last fall by Skagit Farmers Supply and offers affordably priced furniture, mattresses, building materials, plumbing fixtures and appliances — all donated by Whidbey Island residents.

“There are three ingredients in our success,” Stipe said. “First, we have wonderful volunteers who do everything from pick-up to pricing. Next, we have good quality donations from the community. And finally, we have great customers.”

With the new South Whidbey store, Habitat for Humanity is building on the success of its Oak Harbor store on Pioneer Way. The Freeland Store is stocked primarily with donations from South Whidbey.

The Freeland store’s ample space allows Habitat for Humanity to accept not just furniture, but also recycled or new building materials, doors, windows, cabinets, sinks, toilets, tubs, showers and tiles.

“We hope homeowners doing remodeling projects or contractors will remember the Habitat for Humanity of Island County stores and bring us their donations,” Stipe said.

Do-it-yourselfers can also find bargain supplies for projects at the Freeland store.

Volunteers pick up donations, clean and repair items, price them and arrange them on the sales floor. Special attention is paid to wood furniture and antiques.

Volunteer Judy Corbin researches art and antique donations to determine their value, and prices are generally lower than suggested worth.

“We have really generous donors,” said Corbin, pointing to a gleaming walnut highboy desk (circa 1850) as an example of the good-quality donations the store receives.

“It’s amazing how quickly things come and go here, especially the antiques,” said volunteer Susan Knapp.

Couches, chairs and mattresses need to be clean and without tears.

Donated appliances must work. Some wood furniture gets sanded and refinished, and all furniture gets a good cleaning and oiling as needed.

“It’s hard work to get everything ready to sell,” Stipe said. “But it’s worth it.”

Assistant Manager Jean Christianson echoed Stipe’s sentiments.

“It feels good to create change and help people find what they need,” she said.

Proceeds from both Habitat stores support the local organization’s mission of providing safe, affordable housing for low-income families in Island County.

Money earned through the Oak Harbor and Freeland stores enables the organization to purchase land for homes, put in septic systems, and buy materials for Habitat projects.

Families chosen for a Habitat home must meet the criteria for level of need, and a willingness to pitch in with construction.

They also must be able to repay a low-interest home loan.

Homeowners must contribute 500 hours of “sweat equity” to the project, working alongside sub-contractors and volunteers.

Habitat for Humanity homeowners can meet some of the sweat equity requirement by volunteering in the stores.

“Several of our volunteers are Habitat homeowners,” Stipe said. “It makes their kids proud to see their parents working hard to make a home for the family.”

Habitat for Humanity of Island County just finished its 34th house and is due to start a new project in Freeland soon.

The Habitat for Humanity Store in Freeland is located at 1592 Main St. and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

For more information, visit islandcountyhabitat.org or call 331-6272.