Terry Dee is the director of retail operations of Habitat for Humanities' HabiStore, a home-improvement center that sells new and used building and home-improvement materials, furniture and appliances. Tucson's store opened in 2006, but there are about 500 HabiStores (named ReStores everywhere else) in the nation. Thanks to donations from homeowners, contractors and homebuilders, HabiStore has diverted around 150 tons of material from landfills each year. HabiStore is currently sponsoring the construction of the third home completely funded from the store's revenue. Stop by 3840 S. Palo Verde Road from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday; call 889-7200; or visit the HabiStore Web site for more information.

Why did Habitat for Humanity decide to open HabiStore?

In 1999, the first Habitat for Humanity store opened in Austin, Texas. It's just another way for Habitat to earn money, to begin with, but we found ... that it also has an environmental impact on the community.

What is the demographic of people that HabiStore serves the most?

It's mostly individual homeowners. We get a lot of donations, for example, from contractors who are putting a new kitchen in someone's house, and instead of the old kitchen going to the landfill, the old kitchen comes here, and we can resell it to someone else who cannot afford to go and buy brand-new cabinets. And sometimes, we get some really nice cabinets.

Have you seen a recent increase in people coming to the store because of the economy?

Certainly in the last 12 months. Our customer count is higher, and ... we are seeing that our donation count is a little lower as well.

What do you do when you struggle to receive donations?

We try to reach out to the community in different ways, like (at) the (Southern Arizona Home Builders Association) Home Show, which is a great resource for us. Also, participating in things like the Solar Rock Festival and the Earth Day Festival ... (helps).

How much is donated weekly to the HabiStore?

The (HabiStore) truck runs five days a week, and it does between eight and 10 pickups a day, and we have between eight and 10 drop-offs (at the store) per day. We have trucks that will drive out and get stuff.

What are items that people don't think to donate that can be reused?

Gosh, we just got an aquarium; we haven't gotten a lot of those. It's an aquarium with turtles in it, so we have turtles up front. Artwork; I just got a beautiful gecko wind chime that somebody hand-made. We do a lot of books. But the things you really think about are lighting, cabinetry, sofas, chairs and old appliances.

Do all the proceeds go back to Habitat for Humanity?

Sure. Of course, there are some salaries, and I have to pay rent. We're self-sustained ... and we just celebrated our third anniversary on Feb. 2.

What are the benefits of using reused materials rather than new materials?

The first benefit for our customers is the cost. And the overall benefit to the community is the fact that (the items are) not in the landfill. ... Last year alone, we diverted 150 tons from the landfill. ... Until we were here, when you had an old window or door, you just threw it away. When people ... donate, it's good for us; it's good for the person that buys it; but it's really good for the person who donated. When they come here and go, "You know, I hated throwing this kitchen sink away, and I got a new one," they feel good, and they know they've helped Habitat.

How is the HabiStore different from other donation stores in Tucson?

The really big difference is in the niche we filled with this whole building-material thing. We partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Casa de los Ninos, and when we get a lot of clothes, we pass them on, and they do the same when someone goes to Casa and donates a door to them; they call us and say, "Hey, come get this door." With the building boom and people flipping houses constantly when we first opened, it worked well for us to get all those materials.

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