Homeowners, contractors donate salvaged materials to those in need

Homeowners, contractors donate salvaged materials to those in need

by Nick McLain

When Mike and Mary Osterholt of Locust Grove [Ga.] elected to renovate their kitchen, they had no idea their old kitchen cabinets, stove and refrigerator might find reuse in the home of a 72-year-old widow.

But that's exactly what happened after the Osterholts hired highly rated Magnet Construction Services in McDonough [Ga.]. Company owner Mark Galey suggested they donate the items to the Greater Atlanta Fuller Center for Housing, a nonprofit that helps build and repair homes for low-income residents through its Greater Blessing repair program. "It's one of those things that you don't think about, but when Mark brought it up, I thought it sounded like a great idea," Mike says.

Through the program, volunteers helped restore Lillie Miller's run-down home in McDonough, where she lived with swarming termites, a leaking tarp roof and no hot water. "It should have been condemned, and she was living there," Galey says. "You could step through the floor to the dirt below in some rooms."

At first, Miller says, she thought the offer "sounded too good to be true." However, after an extensive five-month renovation where crews installed the salvaged kitchen cabinets, stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer and flooring, Miller marvels at the transformation. "It was just unbelievable," she says. "I 'oohed' and 'aahed' in every room I went into. I think about it now and still get choked up."

Galey, who serves as president of The Fuller Center, says he carefully deconstructed the Osterholts' kitchen before taking the materials to the nonprofit's ReClaim It Center, a warehouse where salvaged materials are sold at discounted prices to the public. This is where Greater Blessing volunteers found all of Miller's materials, and Galey says he even purchased items there to use in his own kitchen remodel. "I'm very proud of it," he says.

The ReClaim It Center warehouse offers more than a thousand items, including windows, doors, sinks, bathtubs, faucets, cabinets, countertops, paint and lumber, according to Michelle Uchiyama, a Fuller Center consultant.

Dean Bires, owner of highly rated Bires Remodeling in Loganville [Ga.], says he often donates salvaged materials to the center and advises clients to do so. "Most people aren't aware that it's something they can do," he says.

As a board member for the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, Bires says he tries to spread the word about the benefits of donating salvaged materials not just to homeowners, but other contractors. "It takes a little longer ... and there are some real costs involved, but we absorb some of those costs because it's just the right thing to do," he says.

Customers willing to deconstruct and donate salvaged items can also claim a tax deduction for the donation. Galey says the deduction often comes close to offsetting the additional labor costs that result from dismantling old materials rather than demolishing them.

But it's often about more than just the financial savings, Bires says. "They don't donate for any material benefits," he says of his clients. "They are motivated by the fact that it will be reused by someone who needs it, and it won't end up crowding a landfill when it doesn't need to be there."

Galey agrees. "It's easy to throw things away," he says. "But then you see the people we help, the conditions they live in and how our stuff can make a difference in their lives. How can you put a price on that?"

Mike Osterholt says salvaging his kitchen didn't add to his project's cost, and it saved him about $200 on his tax return. Both he and his wife feel they made a difference. "We were really, really happy to hear how much [Miller] enjoyed getting all that," Mike says.

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