Investigating the LBM industry's Hurricane Katrina relief efforts for this column in the October issue made me curious about other unique ways that companies along the construction supply chain are engaging in charitable work and making donations. That interest and a little research led me to The Storehouse, which provides building materials (among other products) to organizations and individuals in need but has flown under the radar of most in the LBM sector.

The Storehouse was founded in 1995 as the U.S.-based product distribution arm of World Vision International, a non-profit relief and development organization assisting 70 million people globally each year in the quest to fight poverty and hunger, and sponsor children in need, among other things. The Storehouse's 10 locations across the United States provide school supplies, clothes, toys, household goods, and building supplies, the latter of which are available at four of the locations: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Philippi, W.V. (which serves the 13 states of Appalachia).

Approximately 20 percent of The Storehouse's merchandise is distributed to non-profits, and the balance goes to individuals and families sponsored by nonprofits and approved through a membership system. All of the building supplies (as well as the other items The Storehouse supplies) are free of charge, save a nominal fee for warehousing and inventory handling. The building supplies are then used for remodeling projects or new homes, such as those built through Habitat for Humanity.

Currently, the organization primarily is working with building product manufacturers to provide products in five areas: windows and doors, cabinets, flooring, plumbing supplies, and paint. Among the top contributors are Moen, which donated $1.6 million in faucets earlier this year, Simonton Windows, Therma-Tru, and Kohler. When I spoke to Bob Weszely, the national accounts manager for The Storehouse, he told me that the main advantages for companies donating to the supply center include tax write-offs, the ability to free-up inventory space occupied by discontinued or obsolete products, and a vehicle for improving employee morale and public image. And, of course, companies want to give back to communities because it's just the right thing to do. Sara Theis, senior public relations manager for Therma-Tru, summed it up best: “Therma-Tru is proud to contribute to local and national building projects that improve the quality of life and security for those who need it most. We believe it is important to give back to our communities and are honored to be part of creating what is sacred by many—a home.”

Therma-Tru has worked with The Storehouse since the beginning of 2004, and during that time the company has donated about 2,000 doors, including a recent contribution of two truckloads of construction-series steel doors from its Roland, Okla., facility. In the near future, Therma-Tru also will donate 114 patio door systems.

Simonton has been working with The Storehouse for approximately five years, and the company currently donates four to six tractor-trailer loads of new windows twice a year to the program. As Jody Garrett, vice president of manufacturing, explained, all of Simonton's windows are custom-made, and often customers request the wrong size, grid style, or type of window. They all are top-quality vinyl windows that never have been used, but when they are returned they cannot be resold.

According to Weszely, The Storehouse has identified 25 low-income communities most in need of assistance around the country, and long-term plans are to expand the organization's number of locations, the number of stores that offer building materials, and the variety of building materials available. As more and more LBM dealers grow and diversify, there may be opportunities to partner with The Storehouse and get involved, including donating excess inventory, special order returns, and outdated merchandise. If your company would like to explore them, contact Weszely at 773.294.5952.