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ReStore - a store that actually helps

29 of April '22

The Warsaw branch of ReStore is, for the time being, Poland's first charity store that is a showcase for the Habitat for Humanity Poland foundation, which is dedicated to, among other things, preventing homelessness. The concept is to recycle furniture, building materials and home furnishings, which ReStore gives a second life to and puts into further circulation. Over time, the scope of ReStore's activities is expanding, as store manager Maciej Kosiorek tells us.

Anna Walewska: How was ReStore created?

Maciej Kosiorek: Let's start perhaps from the beginning. Habitat for Humanity is an international network of charitable organizations that work to prevent homelessness and improve housing conditions for the indigent. Operating in more than 70 countries around the world since 1976, Habitat for Humanity organizations have improved housing conditions for many millions of people. At one point, the Canadian branch of the foundation in Winnipeg started getting a great deal of building materials, home furnishings that could not always be used immediately. And so, in 1991, the idea was conceived to create a charity ReStore, whose operating model is that individuals and companies make in-kind donations of various types of building materials, furniture and other home furnishings that they don't need, but are still in good condition, which are then sold at the foundation's store. All profits from the sales are donated to the foundation's statutory goals.

The sklep is located in Warsaw`s Targówek at 12 Łojewska Streetsklep is located in Warsaw`s Targówek at 12 Łojewska Streetsklep is located in Warsaw`s Targówek at 12 Łojewska Street

The store is located in Warsaw's Targówek at 12 Łojewska St.

© Habitat for Humanity Poland

: When did you start operating in Poland?

Maciej: The history of the Habitat for Humanity Poland foundation dates back to 1992. The work to open the ReStore had been going on since 2017. It took some time. I have been on board since 2019. That's when we intensively started preparing the premises in Targówek at 12 Łojewska Street, provided by the City of Warsaw. We were planning a grand opening on March 21, 2020. Everything was ready, but then the world stopped. A pandemic broke out, so we had to change plans. We opened the store a few weeks later, but of course with less momentum.

: What kind of response have you encountered?

Maciej: The popularity of charity in Poland is growing, but it is not yet an exceptionally widespread activity. We are still learning how to help, how not to waste, how to give away what is unnecessary. Our model in Warsaw has been adapted to the reality in which we operate. However, we have convinced quite a few people to our idea, including the local community, who are attracted to the ReStore by the attractive prices of products. Thanks to the hard work and commitment of the team, we are operating resiliently, although it is not always easy. Fortunately, more and more individuals and institutional partners are supporting us through in-kind donations. The ReStore is also a great showcase for our foundation.

: What is your model in Poland based on?

Maciej: In addition to the store, we also have a workshop and educational space. In a fully-equipped carpentry workshop, we organize classes on restoration, repair, renovation of furniture, tinkering with wood, and conduct activities that allow people to understand that throwing away old things is not the only solution - we show how to repair or repurpose them. We show by our own example how the closed-loop economy can become a permanent part of the way we live or think. In 2020 and 2021, we managed to divert more than 500 tons of materials from the road to the landfill and give them a second life. And that's in Warsaw alone, where in 2019 there were nearly 500 tons of bulky waste, and in 2020 there were already more than 2,000. We noticed that during the pandemic people began to pay more attention to the space around them and started to consciously implement a less waste approach - instead of throwing away, they passed unnecessary items on. ReStore not only supports people with less affluent wallets or foundation clients. It also teaches conscious consumption - during classes in the workshop zone or educational zone. It conducts joint projects with the district office, and there are classes in one of the schools with an environmental theme.

wnętrze storewnętrze storewnętrze store

interior of the store

© Habitat for Humanity Poland

: What can be found in your store?

Maciej: Everything, well maybe almost everything, for the home. Due to the nature of this place, you may not always find two of the same chairs, but using the ReStore's offerings, you can create original and inexpensive interiors, while being conscious of saving our planet's resources. We even had on offer a beautiful marble bathtub with accessories, antiques, cult furniture from the People's Republic of Poland, as well as design gems appear. All at very affordable prices.

: How do your activities affect the current reality in the context of the refugee crisis?

Maciej: More than 2.5 million people from Ukraine have entered Poland, half of whom are children. It has become a key and urgent issue to provide them with safe shelter.

In addition to the efforts of NGOs, volunteers and the Polish public, it is necessary to take systemic and long-term measures to address housing needs. The housing situation in Poland has been difficult for a long time, and now the housing problems have become even more apparent.

We are operating at full steam, and the Habitat for Humanity Poland team, including ReStore, is growing to meet the needs of the moment. To support those who have fled Ukraine, we are carrying out activities on several levels - intervention activities, activities to provide more stable opportunities to get a roof over their heads, and down the road, we are also planning major renovations and adaptations to increase the housing stock. As part of our intervention activities, we are running a reception desk at East Station, in cooperation with the city. We help incoming people find places of shelter, directing them to rooms and apartments offered by Warsaw residents. For those who are in Warsaw in transit, we offer accommodation in hotels with which we have signed cooperation.

The situation in the capital is a real challenge. Warsaw's population has increased by 20 percent. ReStore donates and supplies furnishings to most of the apartments made available to newcomers from Ukraine. Every family that applies here receives comprehensive support. Every day we prepare sets of items for families from Ukraine, in addition to furniture we pack glasses, cups and other necessary items.

{Using the ReStore offer, you can create original and inexpensive interiors,title=using the ReStore offer, you can create original and inexpensive interiors}

using ReStore offerings, you can create original and affordable interiors

© Habitat for Humanity Poland

: What are the biggest needs?

Maciej: Many of the apartments designated for refugees are empty, so ReStore's role here is a big one - we donate furniture and other necessary equipment. After the first week of the crisis, we no longer had half of the furniture previously displayed in the store. We then launched campaigns to solicit donations through our network of contacts, so today we have more of the needed furnishings - the need is great. Those wishing to help in some way, we invite you to donate items for furnishing your homes (primarily we need lounge accessories such as beds, mattresses, quilts, blankets or pillows), financial donations, but also to make purchases at the ReStore, as profits from sales feed the foundation's statutory goals. Another way of helping, also important to us, is simply spreading the word further about our activities, volunteering individuals and company employees. So you can support us in many ways.

We work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, our team is growing. We think long-term. We associate with developers, associations, local governments, professionals, including architects, and we work with individuals.

: Does the current situation allow you to operate in other areas?

Maciej: When we launched our assistance to people from Ukraine, we assumed that we had to continue those activities that we have carried out so far for those most in need.

: What are the stories behind these people?

Maciej: I know a lot of people's stories: single mothers with children fleeing violent partners, or people who live with a multi-generational family in dire conditions, for example, in a house with one room, no toilet, no running water. It is necessary to say that such situations occur and that this problem exists, and that there are organizations such as the Habitat for Humanity Poland Foundation that can help such people.

Anna: Thank you for the interview.

interviewed: Anna

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