A Cause That Makes Sense

Last updated on May 15th, 2022 at 10:31 pm

Community Warehouse, a nonprofit organization that provides surplus home improvement supplies to low-income organizations and people, is now open on Milwaukee’s south side.

After four years of planning, the group recently opened its doors at 520 S. 9th St.

Community Warehouse collects new home improvement supplies from contractors and sells them at greatly reduced rates to members.

The organization wants to help get those supplies to other nonprofit organizations, churches and Milwaukee residents who live within lower-income areas of the city, said George Bogdanovidh, one of the four co-founders of Community Warehouse.

Community Warehouse wants to sell home improvement supplies at low prices to encourage urban renewal in Milwaukee’s poorest areas.

The warehouse offers memberships to nonprofit organizations and churches for $100 per year and for $25 per year for residents who are referred by a nonprofit group or church.

The members are able to purchase home improvement supplies such as plumbing fixtures and pipes, cabinets, doors, windows, lighting and even some appliances for prices that are generally 75 percent less than normal retail prices.

The organization will be placing particular emphasis on several items, including paint, plumbing supplies and flooring, Bogdanovich said.

Bogdanovich said Jim Schwiesow, another co-founder of Community Warehouse, has established arrangements with local builders, remodelers and developers, in which they donate extra building supplies to the organization.

The donors receive itemized receipts, which they can use for tax write-offs, and Community Warehouse is able to sell the donated items.

Bogdanovich said he and Schwiesow had worked “basically full time on the project” for the past three years.

“Jim was calling on about 1,500 remodelers and builders because we figured that we needed to have 60 to 70 percent of them supporting us once we opened our doors,” Bogdanovich said. “And I took the business and marketing plan.”

Although Community Warehouse has only been open since June 27, the response from the community has been almost overwhelming, Bogdanovich said.

“We’ve budgeted for about $60,000 in sales, but we’ll do close to $100,000,” he said. “It’s been bigger than we thought it was going to be, given the resources we had to operate. We didn’t have all of the program staff, but we picked (an opening) date and went with it.”

Community Warehouse has three paid employees – Schiesow as its procurement manager, Jill Rennick is the office manager and Mike Garcia is the stock manager.

The project has been such a success that the organization already is planning a second location.

“I think that the demand will be huge,” he said. “We’re hoping to replicate it on the other side of the city, somewhere near the north side. We’re hoping to have that going in 12 to 18 months. Our donors have already been told that we’ll start looking for another place too.”

Community Warehouse’s south side space was donated by an acquaintance of Bogdanovich, whom he declined to name. He said that friend “has the gift of making money and the gift of giving money.”

Community Warehouse occupies about 20,000 square feet of space inside an 80,000-square-foot former tannery building.

Aside from having arrangements with remodelers and builders to have materials donated to the warehouse, Bogdanovich said several firms have also made significant donations to the building.

For example, Dave Droegkamp Heating and Cooling Inc. not only donated the labor to install a new warehouse heating system inside the warehouse, they also called executives at Lennox who donated five new warehouse-sized heaters.

Other firms, including Steinhafels, Mautz Paint, PJ Plumbing, Pieper Electric and Wallboard Inc., donated materials and labor to help get Community Warehouse’s facility up and running.

Now that Community Warehouse has opened its doors, Bogdanovich said he’s hoping it can start planning its second phase. The nonprofit’s first priorities and goals are to help spur community redevelopment by making materials affordable, but it has another goal in mind.

“We have a vision, in terms of being a faith-based provider, to help people in need in terms of supplies,” Bogdanovich said. “But the next step is economic training – getting the unemployed a conduit to gainful employment.

“We had a tight budget,” he said. “In the first two months, we wanted to get our employees set and have the money to pay them. We’re looking for some marketing funding so we can start putting the word out.”

The word about the opportunities available at the Community Warehouse is slowly getting out on the city’s south side.

Bert Dumabok, who lives in the 2100 block of South 20th Street, which lies within Milwaukee’s defined redevelopment zone, purchased four bay windows and a new front door from Community Warehouse. He paid $100 for each of the windows and about $60 for the door, compared with more than $1,000 for the windows and about $370 for the door at retail prices.

Dumabok said he could not have afforded to buy the home improvement items at retail prices, but they’ve made a big difference in his house.

“They’re all in place, and they look beautiful,” he said. “I’ve been trying to help advertise Community (Warehouse) since then. I’ve told lots of people about it, and I told them where it’s located. I’d like to see people fix the homes in the neighborhood.”

 

Community Warehouse

Phone: (414) 383-7792

Web site: www.TheCommunityWarehouse.org

Address: 520 S. 9th St., Milwaukee

Employees: 3

Financial donations since 2002: $325,780

Organizational members: 15

Community members: 32

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