Three years. 12,000 phone calls. Over 5,000 donation pick ups. And that's just one part of the impact Donations Coordinator Marilyn Paulos has had since she joined the ReStore team in October of 2013.
"This role gives me the chance to use my retail background and skill set for a cause I care deeply about," Marilyn said. "Home is huge for me."
Marilyn is a second generation American and the story of many Habitat homebuyers is familiar to her; both of her maternal and paternal grandparents immigrated from Greece in the pursuit of "the American dream." Moving to the United States allowed Marilyn's parents to grow up in stable homes, which gave her a solid foundation to grow and thrive.
“I see my family’s history in the stories of many of our homebuyers—leaving your home country, learning a new language and adjusting to a new climate.”
Her grandparents often reminded her the importance of home— that it is a safe haven and a place to carry on traditions. Now, Marilyn supports Habitat's mission of providing safe, stable, affordable homeownership opportunities every day through her work.
Proceeds from items sold at Twin Cities ReStores support the building of Habitat homes that are purchased by partner families. But before the sales can happen, the store needs to be stocked with donated merchandise. That's where Marilyn and the rest of the donations team step in and work directly with donors.
"My typical day usually involves juggling multiple tasks," Marilyn said. "I answer website inquiries, review photo submissions, answer the phones, keep track of our daily schedule, plan out future donation routes for our truck, all while trying to keep things running smoothly and efficiently. I love details and keeping things organized."
And efficiency is something Marilyn has brought to the ReStore donations process. Since joining the ReStore team, Marilyn has developed an FAQ system for donors, implemented a phone tree directory to assist callers with their inquiries, and recently adopted a new web-based tool to improve the scheduling process.
In addition to reveling in the behind-the-scene organizing work, Marilyn loves interacting with donors.
"I enjoy talking to donors on the phone," Marilyn said. "I get to know them a bit more, and it seems like everyone has an incredible story to share. And they're all donating because they want to make a difference. It's amazing to me how some of them even thank me for my work, just because they believe so strongly in Habitat's mission."
Some of Marilyn's most memorable donation stories include Bill and Wendy at Windswept Hill Farm, who re-did their entire farm with re-used items and donated leftover materials to the store, and the time she coordinated an incredibly large donation from the U.S. Figure Skating Championship Tour.
According to Sr. ReStore Operations Manager, Pete O'Keefe, items that come from ReStore donation trucks account for roughly 70% of ReStore sales, with a product mix that includes items from homeowners, businesses, contractors, and suppliers.
“Marilyn brings value to the ReStore Donations team by providing excellent customer service to each donor, keeping track of the details, and organizing the daily truck routes," said Robin Henrichsen, Donations Manager for the ReStore. "She listens to the donor to learn about their donation and goes the extra step by providing alternative options if their donation is not something that we take at the stores.”
When asked about the most common questions she gets from donors, Marilyn smiled and immediately rattled off her top three:
"Will my donation be used in a Habitat home? Do I need to be home for the pickup? and do you charge for a pickup?"
The answers to these common questions are:
- Donations are not used in Habitat-built homes. Instead, our ReStores sell donated items to the public, to raise funds for Habitat’s mission of building affordable housing. Proceeds from the sale of donated items go toward Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity’s mission of building more decent, affordable housing for low-income families. Your donation not only helps raise funds to build Habitat homes, it gives the public a chance to purchase new and like-new building materials way below retail prices.
- No, you do not need to be home for a donation pickup. It’s okay to leave your donation outside your garage, in the alley, or at curbside labeled “Habitat Donation”.
- There is no fee associated with donation pickups, they’re free! If donors would like to help us offset the cost of running our donation trucks, our drivers accept cash or check donations at time of pickup.