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Open for Business, Again

There's renewed optimism in the country after the elections, and we at Materials Matter are sharing in that optimism. We finally signed a new lease and have opened our doors again. Yeah!!! In early September, after four years of operating our Home Improvement Outlet -- the retail end of our operation – out of Corona, California, we very suddenly had to pack up and seek new digs due to events entirely out of our control. As a result, these past three months have been rough for us.

But we remain determined to continue our mission: to help provide housing for those who need it and keep as much salvageable material out of the landfills as possible. Since we set up shop in 2004, we have distributed over $4 million in materials to nonprofit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, for building and renovating affordable shelter housing. We have recycled over 75 million pounds of good, usable materials headed for landfills. We have touched the lives of thousands of people in need from all walks of life: low income families, veterans, battered women and children, children with life threatening disease, autistic children, the elderly, and many more. We are extremely proud of the work we’ve done, and are excited and thankful every day that we can continue to do what we do.

Since we’ve moved, each day brings new challenges, especially financial ones. The move itself cost us roughly $25,000 (trucks, extra workers, gas, storage, legal fees) and there are also many costs associated with opening a new location. And, because the Home Improvement Outlet was forced to temporarily close its doors for two months, we lost about $100,000 in revenues. Those revenues are critical for us, as they pay for the costs of running our charitable programs. Altogether, we estimate losing over $175,000 because of what we went through, and we still are not earning what we would have if none of this ever happened. We have a lot of start up charges that we didn’t count on too: deposits, signage, racking, damaged merchandise, advertising, etc. It’s been a difficult time, and it obviously doesn’t help that the country is reeling along with us.

Another challenge is getting the word out about our new location. Since we’ve relocated to a new city, and because we had to abandon our other facility so quickly, many people don’t really know where we are. So, in a way, it’s as if we’ve had to start over.

But during these tough economic times, I think we’re actually part of the solution, rather than a victim of circumstances. It seems that everyone, no matter what their financial status, is looking to save money wherever they can. Also, with the housing market the way it is, many people are staying in their homes. So they are making upgrades to preserve or increase the equity and make their homes nicer to live in. This is where our Home Improvement Outlet offers help -- people can purchase amazing quality items at 40%-80% off retail. With this in mind, we think we can survive through the economic crisis. We’ve always prided ourselves on being almost 100% self-sustaining. Right now, however, we really need money to get us through this rough patch and it’s hard for people to give – even small amounts. Everybody is hurting. So, we’re feeling the crunch, it just affects us in a different way.

We are so thrilled for everyone to get a glimpse into our world – who we are, what we do, and how we make a difference, or so we hope. We were honored to be profiled and filmed by NOW on PBS. We were humbled and excited to have won the Project Enterprise contest because it validated what we were doing and why. So many times you just get lost in what you’re doing and forget about why you’re doing it. To have the NOW crew come in and really want to understand who we are and what we do was a great experience. Everyone was so wonderful and easy to work with. They spent a lot of time talking to us and had such a desire to learn more about us.

We see the light at the end of the tunnel, and hope that things are starting to turn around. We love our new location and hope that eventually we can bring in a lot more money so that we can double and triple the amount of materials we can provide for affordable and transitional housing. The nonprofits we work with are all suffering right now. And these days, people need help more than ever.

Alison

** Our new location is at 23351 Avenida de la Carlota in Laguna Hills, CA 92653. Our new phone number is 949-421-3800.

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Comments

I was pleased to learn on Now tonight about the east and west coast businesses that are based on recycling building materials, thus not only keeping these materials out of landfills but making them available at a lower cost to low income people and creating jobs in the process. However, I am surprised you don't seem to know of the ReBuild Center in Portland, OR. It has been in this business for at least 10 years. Their enterprise even includes job training in woodworking. They use mateials that are too small to go into a building project and create tables, benches, etc. Dwell Magazine featured them in an article about 18 months ago. I suggest you contact them as a follow-up to show an even greater and longer-term success. This can serve as additional impetus to others looking to create similar centers in low-income, underserved areas.

It is so encouraging to see people making positive contributions by creating ways to turn problems into solutions. By re-framing "crisis" as opportunity abundance will surely follow. Endeavors such as Material Matters and Working Green Co-op are so inspiring because they point us in the direction of sharing resources, creating revenue out of "Lack and Waste" and they foster a sense of community. Thanks to all who share their time and talent to help others and respect our Planet.

Hello from Hawaii- My husband and I just thinking- this would be a great thing to start up in Hawaii. The garbage dumps are overfilled and no place to put it all- they have to ship it to the mainland. Living in a lower income area of Oahu, this would really benefit the people here and create jobs and economy as well as pollution. How can we get started with this here?
Thanks,
Barbara and Larry

This is an impressive enterprise. Good luck!
I urge you to consider this.
1. Use pneumatic, not electric power tools.
2. Put together an air compressing system consisting of a windmill, an air compressor, and a large, strong tank ( a used version of a truck tank used to haul propane or helium or other highly compressed gas will work just fine).

You will achieve:
1. Very economical power for you hand tools.
2. Storable energy (the wind really doesn't blow hard every day)!
3. A market for measures of compressed air when Tata Motors' compressed air vehicle appears on the scene.

Thank you for the info about materials matter. Here in Northern California (Trinity County) a group of artists is planning to collect recycled materials to be used by artists, teachers and students for creative activities. They have used The Depot in Oakland CA as their inspiration. In Yuma AZ, where I lived before, the Habitat org. had a huge warehouse where donated building materials were sold...another encouraging story in the same vein.

In Boston, the Building Materials Resource Center (www.bostonbmrc.org) accepts donated building materials and sells them. Anyone can purchase, but deep discounts are offered for nonprofit organizations and people who meet certain income guidelines.

I am very excited about the story on Green Collar jobs. We at New Leaf America are dedicated to weatherizing 10 million homes in the next 4 years. We are in the beginning stages of a cooperative with the Human Services Campus in Phoenix, Arizona in an effort to take clients who have been homeless and train them in Green Collar jobs. The Human Services Campus is a coop of 14 different non profit agencies serving the homeless and the hungry in the greater Phoenix area. We hope to take those who are most in need of jobs and train them in these Green collar jobs which will be most needed in the immediate future. We would love to learn what you can share to help us to move forward quickly. We would like to see more broadcasts like these so that we can share ideas and create joint ventures among people and businesses interested in the new Green economy.

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