Habitat combining operations

Moore County group building new facility.

By Todd Cohen

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. [03.23.04] — Habitat for Humanity of Moore County plans to build a new headquarters between Aberdeen and Pinehurst that will consolidate its resale store in Aberdeen and its offices in Southern Pines.

The nonprofit, which opened its Habitat Moore Store in June 2002 in a 16,000-square-foot warehouse it rents in Sandhills Industrial Park off N.C. 5, purchased two-and-a-half acres on N.C. 5 in November 2003 for $150,000.

With a loan from BB&T, and loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the group plans to begin construction in March on a new 22,500-square-foot building.

By consolidating operations now located in two facilities it leases, and constructing its own building, Habitat will be able to create equity in the new facility while paying roughly the same in loan payments as the rent it now pays for both facilities, and roughly the same in loan payments as it would have paid to buy a single building, says Elizabeth Cox, executive director.

The store, which sells donated home furnishings, building materials and decorating items such as paint and drapes, generated a profit of $100,000 on sales of $280,000 in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2003, its first full year of operation.

That profit will pay for building two-and-a-half of the roughly 12 houses Habitat builds each year.

The new building, to be built by New South Construction in Southern Pines, also should boost sales at the store, Cox says, both because it will be located on N.C. 5 rather than in an industrial park off the highway, and because the new location will accommodate delivery of donated materials Monday through Friday rather than only three days a week at the current location.

The store, which generated $85,000 in profit on $197,000 in sales through January, and generated $8,000 in sales in the first week of February, has a two-week backlog of donated items for which it lacks sufficient staging space to clean and prepare before displaying them in its showroom.

Habitat is borrowing money for the $750,000 project, which includes the price of the land, because it wants to limit its fundraising to sponsorships for its houses, for which it raises $40,000 each, Cox says.

“What’s really important to us is that we keep the two projects separate,” she says. “We ask people for money to build houses. We’re not asking them for money to build the building.”

The new facility, which should open by August, will have separate entrances for Habitat, with a staff of three full-time employees, two part-time employees and three AmericaCorps workers, and for the store, with a staff of two full-time people, two to three part-time employees and 40 to 60 volunteers.

Habitat also has scheduled its sixth annual spring gala for March 20 at the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst.

The event, which last year netted $144,000, up from $10,000 in 1999 and $30,000 in 2000, the first year it was held at the Pinehurst Inc. resort, aims to net $160,000 this year.

Under Pat Corso, who resigned in February as CEO after more than 17 years, Pinehurst Inc. has donated the facility, plus food and wine, for the gala.

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