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‘This is it’

FD woman finds meaningful work at Heartland HomeStore

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Deb Schmidt, poses inside the Heartland HomeStore. Schmidt, the former manager of Carolyn’s Hallmark Store, now serves as the manager for the HomeStore.

Deb Schmidt was heartbroken when Carolyn’s Hallmark Shop closed at Crossroads Mall at the end of 2020.

Schmidt, of Fort Dodge, had worked at the store for 23 years. She got to know her customers and felt like she made a difference.

The loss of that fulfillment was demoralizing. And Schmidt wondered if she would ever again find employment that she truly enjoyed.

“I went home for a few months and cried and then came here,” Schmidt said. “It’s an amazing place. Everything that comes in donation-wise that we sell turns around and goes into the communities.”

The “here” that Schmidt referred to is Heartland HomeStore, formerly the ReStore. Heartland HomeStore, 118 N. 12th St., is paired with the nonprofit Heartland Hope and Homes, formerly Twin Rivers Habitat for Humanity.

The store sells new and gently used donated items to the public. Proceeds help the organization to provide homes for qualified families, as well as ramps, roofs, and remodels.

“We have built wheel chair ramps for people, roofs, repaired windows, took a bath tub out for an elderly couple and put in a handicap accessible shower,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt began her work at Heartland as a volunteer in May 2021 after she was invited to check the place out.

“You learn as you go,” Schmidt said.

When August rolled around, Schmidt became an employee. By September she became the manager.

One of things Schmidt enjoys about her new job is the amount of caring people who work for the organization.

One of them is Kevin Albright. Albright is one of Heartland’s handymen. He is a retired MidAmerican Energy Co. worker. Albright finished his 31-year career as a supervisor in the gas department.

On a recent day, Albright planned to tear out flooring and replace it with new for a customer.

“The daughter needs to be able to get around the house in her wheelchair,” Albright said.

In the fall of 2021, Albright helped a woman in Bradgate replace her roof and one of the windows.

The window was replaced with one that had been donated to the HomeStore.

“We like to reuse and recycle,” Albright said. “Moving homes instead of building new.”

There’s a lot of variety to the work Albright does. But one constant is that it usually involves helping people.

On Jan. 22, he brought out a piece of carpet and a box of tools for a man outside working on a car.

“The number one thing – it’s a faith-based business to live out your faith by helping others,” Albright said. “Fleshing out what you say you believe.”

In terms of the HomeStore, supplies like paint, furniture and tools, are sold.

Boxes full of door knobs, nails, screws and bolts can be found throughout the building.

“If someone breaks a certain hinge, they will come in and dig around and find it,” Schmidt said.

Dave Goetzinger, warehouse supervisor, has been working to get the store more attention online.

“I am posting on Facebook, trying to make things more visible,” he said.

Goetzinger also does a lot of salvage work.

“Our goal is to keep stuff out of the landfill and get it to where someone else can use it,” Goetzinger said.

Bryce Hulsebus was moving a cabinet to the showroom on a recent day.

“He’s a great kid,” Schmidt said. “They went and picked up donations, we got it back here, cleaned it all up and took it into the showroom. To give it a new life with another family.

“It gives it another life. That repurpose, restore, recycle, those are true words here.”

Another thing Heartland does is build homes or move homes for customers.

“All of us really like the ability to solve a problem for somebody,” Albright said. “We have three families we are trying to get into a home by the end of the year.”

Schmidt said the Heartland HomeStore is very similar to the ReStore, which ultimately closed in large part due to complications caused by COVID-19.

“We are still doing all of those things that Habitat for Humanity did,” Schmidt said. “One of our big things is to let people know we are here and are doing great stuff.”

In an effort to give more people a chance to stop in, the store is staying open until 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

“We have lowered prices,” Schmidt said. “We have changed a lot of the look in here.”

Schmidt said she is happy in her new role at the HomeStore.

“When I left Hallmark, I thought, ‘Where would I go and not be like a number somewhere?’ And I came here and I thought, ‘We actually help people here. We talk with them and spend the time with them.’ I was very blessed to end up down here,” Schmidt said. “After Hallmark, I never thought I’d find a job I’d like, and this is it.”

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