The local Habitat for Humanity affiliate serving all of Waldo County, with an office at First Baptist Church on High Street, is expanding its operations with a home improvement and donation center.

Contractors broke ground recently on a ReStore, Habitat’s retail franchise, on Route 3 west of the University of Maine Hutchinson Center and next to Sweetser Drive. The Republican Journal met Jan. 21 with Carrie Limeburner, Waldo Habitat’s executive director, and board member Toni Mailloux to talk about the project.

Limeburner said the plan is to do as much of the site work as possible this winter in preparation for an old-fashioned “barn raising” in late summer with a number of area contractors donating their time and services.

Whitecap Builders founder Larry Jones, who will oversee the project, said all the framing should be able to be completed in four days, according to Mailloux. No official date has been set for the ReStore barn raising.

Work on the inside of the facility will continue throughout the winter, with a grand opening tentatively planned for September.

Mailloux said the group spent years looking for a property on Route 3 and feels that, with its central location, it will be a good fit for the county.

“Belfast, with the many contractors and building supply companies located within the community, was chosen as the prime spot to have a retail store,” she said.

The land was purchased two years ago, but because of the pandemic, the project was postponed. Also adding to the delay, Mailloux said, the former executive director stepped down for health reasons.

“Carrie came on as director in November,” she said. Besides all of that, "there's a lot that goes into building a building in the city."

The store will sell new and used furniture, appliances, home accessories and building materials, among other items, at bargain prices. It will accept donations of excess materials from contractors who have items left over after a job.

“Someone who may be remodeling and has old cabinets or appliances, or furniture stores who deliver and take away old furniture” will be able to donate to the ReStore, Mailloux said. According to Habitat’s website, ReStores divert hundreds of tons of discarded material from landfills each year.

Proceeds from the store will fund all other operations, Mailloux said. The organization's small operating budget focuses on building safe and affordable homes with community engagement, she added.

Project houses benefit the sponsor family, Mailloux said, allowing them the opportunity to own a safe and affordable home. They benefit the town, too, she said, generating taxes.

The nonprofit's budget is deliberately kept low, Limeburner said, with the intention of expanding house-building efforts. This year’s operating budget is $32,000.

The cost of the ReStore is estimated to be approximately $400,000, with most of the labor donated. Currently, the site has electricity, along with a well and septic system.

Mailloux said they have about half the funds they need to complete the project and hope to raise the rest through a capital campaign.

“This year because of COVID-19, many of the fundraisers had to be canceled,” Mailloux said.

Habitat for Humanity of Waldo County, located at 93 High St., has been in business for 10 years, and in that time has built five homes for people who demonstrate need. Two homes were built in Belfast, two in Searsport, and one in Searsmont. Mailloux hopes to do more and build one house every year.

According to its literature, the organization is committed to building safe and affordable housing for working families who qualify, after going through a multi-step application process. The homes are then sold to partner families who assume a mortgage with monthly payments they can afford.

"Once Belfast became a great place to live, with no more feathers and blood everywhere, it became very gentrified,” Mailloux said. “Our operation started as an outreach, to help people in the area find suitable housing.”

Through the five house-building projects, she said, the community support has been “wonderful.”

Robbins Lumber in Searsmont is a big supporter, making many in-kind donations, and former President Jenness Robbins has overseen three or four houses.

Central Maine Power Co., Allen Insurance, athenahealth and Bank of America have all helped, and Waldo County General Hospital has sent a team of doctors to assist with construction, Mailloux said. There have also been in-kind donations of gravel and cement from local supply companies such as Viking and Hammond Lumber.

Sherwin Williams contributed paint and many banks have had crews of volunteers help with construction. Islesboro School sent a team of students to help out and Waldo County Technical Center has also sent student crews to work on project houses.

The land for the Belfast Habitat houses was donated, Mailloux said. For the current ReStore project, Limeburner added, the city of Belfast waived its $4,500 building permit fee. "That is a big deal,” she said.

Sponsor families are also required to commit 200 sweat equity hours in the construction phase. "They all have given far more than that," Mailloux said.

Through the ensuing years, Mailloux said, they have kept in touch with the families, and see them often at fundraising events. “It's part of our mission to help people become homeowners and stay homeowners," she said. "Each sponsor family is also partnered with a support person which guides them and gives them advice on home ownership."

Volunteers are always needed, Limeburner said, and not only to swing a hammer.

"We need volunteers for a lot of different things," she said, "even help with our website. I would love to talk to anyone interested in volunteering."

Anyone wishing to volunteer, donate or contribute in any way should call 338-2344 or email hfhwcoffice@gmail.com.

With nine people currently, Mailloux added, the organization is always on the lookout for more board members as well.