Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

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December 24, 2012
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Habitat for Humanity soars with Aspen hotel donations

Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork grossed a record $2 million in 2012, thanks in large part to the generosity of five upper valley hotels undertaking remodels.

The Hotel Jerome, Snowmass Club Residences, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Inn at Aspen collectively contributed thousands of pieces of furniture and other items that the nonprofit sold through its ReStore.

Sales of the Victorian furniture and pillows, curtains and other items from the Hotel Jerome raised $240,000, according to Habitat For Humanity Roaring Fork President Scott Gilbert. The sale of the items from the 30 condominiums at Snowmass Club Residences generated another $210,000, he said.

Habitat had to open a second outlet, which it calls ReStore, in Glenwood Springs to showcase and sell all the high-end furniture. The resale also fit Habitat's mission to find a use for materials and avoid sending them to the landfill.

Habitat was able to buy land that will eventually provide housing for up to 30 families because of the hotel's donations.

"We call it the win-win-win-win scenario," Gilbert said. "Win one - locals get to buy amazing items at huge discounts.

"Win two, things don't end up in the landfill," Gilbert said.

"Win three, Habitat raises funds for the land purchase and home-building fund," he said. "Win four, donors can get significant tax breaks."

The furniture is typically sold at about 10 cents on the dollar, Gilbert said, so buyers are getting significant deals on high-end items.

Hotels often work with a liquidation company to offer furnishings for sale. They go that route because it helps raise capital for the remodel, said Tony Dilucia, general manager of the Hotel Jerome. But he said he only approached the hotel owners once with the idea of contributing to Habitat. They were enthused by the idea of giving back to a community that gives so much to the Jerome, Dilucia said.

"It's sort of a no-brainer," he said.

Buyers also benefit from the sale of "high-quality" stuff from curtains and pillows to nightstands and coffee tables. "They can get a piece of the Jerome, if they want it," Dilucia said.

Antiques that have been with the Hotel Jerome for several years were refurbished and re-used as part of the remodel. Even so, that left plenty of items to donate. Dilucia estimated that more than 1,000 items, just from the Jerome, were contributed to Habitat for Humanity.

The owners of the 30 condos at the Snowmass Club Residences embraced Aspen Skiing Co.'s suggestion to donate the furnishings rather than sell through a liquidator, according to Don Schuster, Skico vice president of real estate development. Skico manages the Snowmass Club Residences. Skico donated furnishings from its Little Nell Hotel in 2009 as part of a remodel.

"We suggested it to them based on our experiences with The Little Nell," Schuster said. "It was the right thing to do."

Furnishings from living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms were donated from the condos as well as mirrors and televisions.

The sale of all the high-end merchandise at the ReStores in Glenwood Springs has earned the local chapter a reputation among the Habitat organization. "The joke around the state is we're the Nordstroms of ReStores," Gilbert said, referring to the high-end retailer.

Gilbert said Habitat works with Roaring Fork Valley-based Olde Towne Moving and Storage whenever possible to get the donated furnishings to Glenwood Springs to its ReStores. Olde Towne handles the items with care, so there is less damage than with other movers, Gilbert said. The company provides its services at an extreme discount.

Hotel Jerome, Snowmass Club Residences and Olde Towne Moving and Storage were named Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork's business partners of the year.

Once the furnishings make it to Glenwood Springs, the bulk of them are taken to a 15,000-square-foot space near Lowe's at Glenwood Meadows. A sample of the items is also displayed at the 21,000-square-foot ReStore on Highway 82 south of Glenwood Springs, where the Farm House furniture used to be located.

The sales of the furnishings from the hotels has exposed more people to the ReStores and increased traffic visiting the stores, further generating sales, Gilbert said.

The infusion of revenue allowed Habitat to buy land while it is relatively inexpensive. It purchased 12 house lots in Keator Grove subdivision in Carbondale. It won't necessarily develop all of those lots, Gilbert said. Some may be used for a playground or a community garden.

Eight duplex lots were purchased in Silt along with two duplex lots in Rifle. One lot was also purchased in Parachute.

"We went from zero inventory to 25 lots," Gilbert said.

The extra revenues were also used to purchase three trucks needed by the nonprofit to pick up furniture from individual donors. Habitat Roaring Fork's staff has increased to 20 full-time employees from relying on volunteers six years ago. The bulk of the employees work at the ReStores. Four are in administrative roles; 15 work in the ReStores.

Habitat Roaring Fork's revenues went from about $27,000 six years ago to $2 million this year. It's allowed Gilbert and his staff to focus on helping people in need of stable housing rather than raising funds. While Habitat cannot count on hotel remodels to keep its revenues that high, Gilbert is confident the organization can maintain $1 million in revenues in future years.

"We're not out begging people for money like most the nonprofits," Gilbert said.

Nevertheless, individual donors are still attracted to the organization because of its proven record of accomplishing its goals, according to Gilbert.

"We're on the cusp of helping a lot more people," he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 24, 2012 10:46PM Published Dec 24, 2012 10:43PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.