Brandon Fischer of Habitat for Humanity ReStore

At first glance, The Habitat for Humanity ReStore appears to be your average thrift store, offering new to gently used furniture, household goods, appliances, building materials, and working electronics- but the organization provides much more than that to our community.

ReStore Director Brandon Fischer elaborates on his job experience, as well as the greater good that the nonprofit performs here in Champaign and beyond.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved with Habitat For Humanity.

Previous to this, I was working at Love’s Travel Stop, and I was working 10, 12, 14 hour days, 6 to 7 days a week, and it was just getting to be too much. When I was looking for another job, there was an opening with Habitat. Back in high school, I had done a summer trip to Colorado where I helped to build a Habitat home, so I came into the interview. My quality of life has gone up drastically [since] moving to nonprofit. Now, I can have a nice work/life balance here. I can have quality time with friends and family, and then I also know at the end of the day that everything I’m doing is for a wonderful cause. It will be three years in September!

Can you explain some of the services that Habitat provides?

The biggest thing is that all the profits from the Restore go directly back into the affiliate towards the mission of building homes. Our big tagline we like to say is, “Homes, community, and hope.”

All of that money is going directly back into the affiliates. Another service we provide the community is upcycling. With a lot of people moving, especially this time of year with the UIUC students, they don’t wanna move stuff, and it’s an opportunity. Instead of just throwing it away, they can drop off their goods here and then we can sell them at reasonable rates back to other members of the community. They can bring it here, and it’s staying out of the garbage.

P/C: Champaign Center Partnership

CU Habitat ReStore’s collective efforts have prevented over 200 tons of materials from entering landfills.

We’re giving different items a second life. And our general rule of thumb is if we get a donation in and it’s brand new, we would sell it at 50% of what it would retail for. If it’s maybe a little bit beat up, we go lower than that. We’re providing very affordable options for people who may not have that much money or disposable income.

Another thing we do is provide volunteer opportunities for people. As part of our homeowner program, in order to participate as a Habitat homeowner, they each have to put in sweat equity hours, around 300 to 350 hours.

As they are building their own home, they are helping build other homeowners’ homes, and a lot of that is also volunteering here at the ReStore. We provide an opportunity for them to get their volunteer hours in. We also provide volunteer opportunities, a lot of students for classes or just to boost their resume, as well as different individuals who may need to work off some community service hours.

We even have people who may have gotten an injury at their job, and they’re not able to go back to work there. They can come here and volunteer with accommodations. For example, somebody may not be able to lift more than 5 or 10 pounds, but we can have them help us here, and it’s a way for them to continue to receive a paycheck.

In fact, we have a volunteer who was the cashier on opening day at the original Champaign County ReStore 21 years ago and she still volunteers to this day. She’ll be here when the organization celebrates its 21st birthday on May 18th.

If someone wanted to get involved, how would they do that?

To volunteer here, visit our website,

Up on the top right, you would click on the ‘ReStore’ tab and then go down to ‘Volunteering.’

We do require orientations. We have orientations Wednesdays at 3:30 in the afternoon, and then Saturdays at 9:30 in the morning.

You have to create a username and then sign up for a screening process, as all our volunteers have to meet certain criteria.

From there, you’d sign up for 2 hour shifts.

P/C: Champaign Center Partnership

How does Habitat directly impacts Champaign county?

I got an email today that has some good metrics. This year, we’re currently building or rehabbing 5 homes. Since 1991, we have built 131 homes, so that’s directly impacting 131 families that have a house that they can turn into a home.

The vast majority of our homeowners are minorities. In Champaign County, African American homeownership is actually lower than in certain parts of Virginia and Alabama, which you wouldn’t necessarily think. Our organization is helping promote minority homeownership, which has a direct impact on generational wealth.

In terms of the creation of homes in Champaign county, there’s been over 65,100 volunteer hours just this year and over a 1,000 different individuals have volunteered. Right now, we’re building 4 to 5 home builds a year, and we’re hoping to increase that over time.

P/C: Champaign Center Partnership

Can you share a pivotal moment since you’ve worked at Habitat that has really resonated with you?

So, the ReStore used to be located on University Avenue. 2 or 3 months after the grand opening here [Glenn Park Drive location] there was a family that walked in, and this kid, 5 to 8 years old, walked in the door, and said,” WOW!”

It was nice to see all this work, and it was a lot of work to have the whole affiliate move over here, getting everything set up, it was nice to see that we had that effect on just walking in the door. The new location is laid out better. It’s brighter, it looks nicer, and we’re just able to do more things here at this new location.

Tell us about the ReStore’s upcoming 21st birthday.

We will be offering 21% off at all donated items, which is 90% of the items on the sales floor.

The other items are from partners such as Maxlight, Greenlight, Ameren, and Lowe’s. They donate products that have gone through their discount program, or if they have a changeover, or have stuff that they would just have to throw away, we happily go over and pick it up and then they’re getting brand new in the box items at very cheap pricing.

Was there anything you wanted to share with the community?

We offer a free donation pickup service if you have 3 or more larger items. So, if you don’t have a trailer or box truck, then we will come out and pick up those items for you.

For all those that donate to us, a huge thank you.

We can’t do any of this without the donations of goods.

If you have an item you may not want anymore, but it’s still in good condition or you’re just upgrading, you can donate it to us. It provides a nice item for somebody to purchase, and again, all that goes directly into funding our mission.

All excess ReStore income supports the local Habitat home build program.

At the ReStore prices are firm, but discounts up to 75% are offered on items that have been in the store for an extended period of time. Illinois college students with a valid student ID receive a 15% discount.

Donate to the Habitat for Humanity of Champaign and learn more about the organization HERE.

P/C: Champaign Center Partnership
P/C: Champaign Center Partnership

Main P/C – Champaign Center Partnership