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Donation helps restore lives of public housing residents

ReStore staff member Matt Harringt(left) volunteer Robyn Gislahelp fill cart with kitchen ware for AHA service coordinator Kim Aponte (right)

ReStore staff member Matt Harrington (left) and volunteer Robyn Gislain help fill a cart with kitchen ware for AHA service coordinator Kim Aponte (right) on Friday, January 11, 2013. Habitat for Humanity ReStore of Fox Valley is donating furniture and household items to Aurora Housing Authority residents as part of the AHA's Ross Program, which helps residents achieve self sufficiency. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 15, 2013 6:12AM

AURORA — Couches, dressers, beds and more are on their way to Aurora Housing Authority residents who need them, thanks to a donation from the Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

The Habitat ReStore in Aurora, at the ring around the Westfield Fox Valley mall, donated four truckloads of items Friday to a new Aurora Housing Authority program that aims to help the AHA’s public housing residents achieve self-sufficiency.

“God bless you — you just don’t know how happy this makes (our residents),” Kim Aponte said to ReStore volunteers Friday as they loaded items into an AHA truck. “It’s like Christmas for them.”

The donation connection came when Aponte, service coordinator of the AHA’s Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency program, was shopping at the ReStore for items residents needed. Habitat ReStore volunteer Robyn Gislain asked her if she needed any help, and the two struck up a conversation about the Resident Opportunity program.

“It just spiraled from there,” Aponte said.

In addition to household staples the AHA residents needed, the new partnership aims to get badly needed medical equipment for residents, including a wheelchair for a client with lupus and a bath lift for a resident with multiple sclerosis. Aponte said the ReStore’s first donation will help 18 AHA households.

Aponte said the Resident Opportunity program helps the 600 residents living in Housing Authority buildings through increased case management. Aponte helps residents with a range of tasks — from applying for Social Security or disability benefits, helping with medical needs or identifying legal assistance, job training and education opportunities.

“Anything I can do to make their life better,” Aponte said.

The AHA was awarded a three-year, $229,000 federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund the program in September 2012.

“Though our program is still very new, we have assisted residents in finding educational and health care resources as well as employment opportunities,” said AHA Executive Director Keith Gregory.

Randy Hamann, general manager of the Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore, said the beauty of the new AHA-ReStore partnership is the assistance is staying in the Fox Valley. Last year, the ReStore helped fund homes for four Fox Valley families.

Gregory said the Habitat ReStore has gone “above and beyond” to help the AHA’s less fortunate.

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore sells donated building materials and many other items, including lighting, furniture, dishes, art and other collectibles.

“It’s whatever makes a house a home. The list is pretty long,” Hamann said.

New items at the store are priced about 50 percent below their retail value.

Donations to the store in the last 18 months have kept more than 1.6 million pounds of used material out of local landfills, he said, and gotten them into the hands of people who can use them.

Hamann said 100 percent of the ReStore’s proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity in Aurora.

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