EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a four-part series to be featured this month in the Lake Oconee Breeze highlighting area volunteers and non-profit organizations that give back to the community. The first article features a closer look at the Putnam County Habitat for Humanity and some of its volunteers.

For as long as Joe Campolong has been involved with Putnam County Habitat for Humanity, he has noticed the need for volunteers to assist with labor, resources, time and effort for the organization’s projects.

“If people want to help us, they can assist with volunteerism, help in building the houses and with the ReStore generosity,” Campolong said.

Campolong, a board member with Putnam County Habitat for Humanity, is one of a handful of individuals who assist with the daily operations of Putnam’s ReStore facility, currently located at 1027 Lake Oconee Parkway in Putnam County.

The store, which once focused on providing more building materials than home furnishings, has now moved in the opposite direction to have more home items such as blenders, microwaves, silverware and other miscellaneous goods and furniture which could be reupholstered or even dusted off and provided to a good home for a reasonable price.

The ReStore opened more than a year ago on Jan. 5, 2008, and celebrated an Eatonton-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting soon after.

“Things have been going fairly well. We’ve been able to service this community by taking in products and cycling them back out to families in need,” Campolong said. “We could always use more publicity and donations.”

Habitat is currently constructing its 11th home for an Eatonton woman with two children who works as a postal worker during the day, according to Erlene Kirwen, president of Putnam County Habitat for Humanity.

“We are building on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 707 Church Street [in Eatonton],” Kirwen said. “The house is now totally framed and within the next week or so we will put the trusses up, and then framing for the room and then the actual shingles for the roof.”

That’s where volunteers such as Campolong come in handy — by having someone manning the ReStore, it means the doors are actually open for business and any money brought in from purchases goes directly back into the organization, allowing for items such as resources and materials or even the purchase of a gallon of iced tea or lemonade for thirsty volunteers at the construction sites.

“The ReStore has helped us a great deal, but we’ve seen our donations cut in half from 2007 to 2008,” Kirwen said. “A lot of them [members of the public] don’t know we are even here. We don’t get a great deal of publicity.”

Currently Putnam County Habitat is seeking volunteers for its ReStore, for the construction site and for other miscellaneous tasks, according to Kirwen.

“We would love to see people come to the construction site and help us out with community work and even fundraising,” Kirwen said. “It takes about 16 weeks to complete a project like a house and we hope to be finished and dedicating the home in April.”

Volunteering with Putnam Habitat is as simple as a phone call.

Putnam Habitat has no actual office, but rather a phone number — (706) 485-6550 — for contact information.

All calls are returned and no offer of assistance is turned down, Kirwen said.

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