By Kayla Andersen
O’FALLON – On Saturday, June 19th, Habitat for Humanity held a drive for household goods and furniture to supply their ReStore in Collinsville, which helps fund housing projects within the community. In partnership with Faith Lutheran Church, First United Methodist Church, St. Clair St. Nicolas Catholic Church, and O’Fallon United Church of Christ, it was reported that this was one of the most successful drives to date.
Joe Bednara, a donation truck driver for the ReStore shared, “This is the first drive like this we’re doing here and it won’t be the last. Five months down the road we may do it again. Donations have been good. This has been the best one we’ve had so far as far as turnout and good quality donations too. This is what I would usually get from a full day of driving around and stopping to haul around stuff from five or six different houses. Everyone’s been happy to donate, so it’s a community building exercise as well. You really get to meet the people who are wanting to be part of the process even though they can’t build.”
The ReStore is a resale shop selling an array of donated home goods. They recently rehabbed four properties to expand their store from 3,000 square feet to 10,000, but this project was finished shortly before the area shut down completely due to Covid. They were only able to fully open again recently. With the proceeds from the ReStore, the Habitat for Humanity chapters throughout the area build houses for those in need.
Ken Veeman, the Chair of the O’Fallon chapter shared that O’Fallon has always shown incredible support. They are currently working on a house at 128 Carson, at the corner of Carson Drive and Habitat Way. When they work on these houses, part of the process is getting connected with families in need of affordable housing and setting up interviews to hear their stories. When a family has been selected, building partners from across the community come out to help with various construction projects to make the dream a reality.
“In the eight years we’ve been doing this in our area, in all the families we’ve helped, nobody has ever missed a payment. It works. It stabilizes our community and gives people a safe place to live,” Veeman shared.
They spend approximately $80,000-$90,000 on a house, but only half of that comes from monetary donations. The remaining donations are gifts in kind from partners around the community. Taylor Roofing has provided the roofing materials and installation on every house. They have two plumbing companies that are in friendly competition to provide all the plumbing. Butler Supply provides the electrical materials and retired electricians come in to do the work. The Laborers Union does the driveways, sidewalk, patios, and any other concrete work for free. The Painters and Finishers Training Program comes in and does all the tape and mudding inside, paints the ceilings, and puts primer on all the walls. A partner from St. Louis donates all the kitchens. Even the air conditioners, furnaces, windows, doors, trim, and tap on fees have been donated.
“The thing that’s amazing about this whole process,” said Jim Campbell, Vice Chairman of the chapter. “And the thing that’s really hooked me about the whole Habitat approach is watching the kids when you get a 12 or 13-year-old that’s been sharing a room with two or three siblings suddenly get into a house where they have their own space. You watch that 12 or 13-year-old go from being a little guy or gal that looks at the ground and kicks dirt and never smiles to just absolutely blooming. I watched a little girl come in five years ago that was a typical surly 13-year-old… watched her get into a house she was proud of, get her own space, and I watched her go from never looking anybody in the eye to being on the high school cheer squad and playing lacrosse! And next year she’ll be going to the University of Chicago on a four year scholarship.”
Campbell continued saying, “The first family we had, had a son that was 12. When he moved in the same thing happened, and now this past year he’s a sophomore at University of Illinois and he’s the treasurer for the Habitat for Humanity chapter at the university. It’s a neat community. All you do in O’Fallon is you ask and it shows up – sometimes in ways you can’t believe. And when you see the families move in, it’s incredible. So last year we had our building partner come by after work – at the end of her third job – and she looked at the house and she just cried. It’s that kind of response that keeps us engaged. That’s what we’re all about.”
That is the kind of determination and generosity that O’Fallon has become known for even to members outside of our community. While Campbell and Veeman are O’Fallon residents, Bednara is primarily connected to the Collinsville store. After a very successful drive, it was Bednara that had the most to brag about.
“O’Fallon is the chapter that gets it done. They put up houses so quickly and it’s just a joy to see. We’re really trying our best to have our other chapters kind of match that, but these guys over here are a different breed. It’s a lot of different parts of the communities coming together to get it done and it’s really neat to see,” Bednara said.