Baltimore project turns trash into housing treasures
July 23, 1997
Web posted at: 4:36 a.m. EDT (0836 GMT)
From Correspondent Natalie Pawelski
BALTIMORE, Maryland (CNN) -- Keeping up with a house is a challenge,
especially if money is tight.
In Baltimore, an unusual store called The Loading Dock is helping
thousands of low-income families fix up their homes while also keeping
tons of items out of the trash.
Some of the things in The Loading Dock's warehouse already have had a
previous life in someone else's house. Some styles have been discontinued.
Other items are late-model leftovers from building sites and renovations.
In fact, The Loading Dock's shelves are stuffed with building materials that
would have ended up in the trash in most cities.
"I love that all this stuff which is normally wasted is going to be used," says
Leslie Kirkland of The Loading Dock. "And it's all usable stuff."
Contractors, manufacturers and others who donate items can take a tax
write-off and save on dumping fees by donating to The Loading Dock.
The store itself is a kind of members' warehouse for charities and low-
income families who pay a handling fee -- usually about 1/3 of what an
item would cost in a regular store.
"That's why I'm here," says customer Phyllis Brent. "To get a toilet, get
some paint, get some tiles and any other treasures that come along."
Helping build dreams
Since setting up shop in 1984, The Loading Dock has helped fix up 27,000
homes. Along the way, it's kept 30,000 tons of building material out of
"Without The Loading Dock, affordable housing for us would not be
affordable," says Greg Cantori.
Cantori works for one of The Loading Dock's best customers, Light Street
Housing, which works to provide good homes in the inner city. The front
windows at the organization's new headquarters came from The Loading
Dock. So did doors, cabinets and tile used throughout the building, which
will also house once-homeless women.
"We were able to get it for very inexpensive (prices)," Cantori says. "And
because in this case our volunteers were doing all work, we didn't have the
labor costs and we didn't have the material costs. So therefore we got a
wonderful tile floor for a fraction of the cost."
The savings also made a big difference for Keith Ryer, a first-time home
buyer whose house needed serious remodeling. His wife is allergic to
carpet, so The Loading Dock found an old basketball court that was
landfill-bound, and volunteers from Light Street Housing turned it into a
"And that's how I ended up with a basketball court in the middle of my
house," Ryer says.
The Loading Dock has fielded about 600 inquiries from around the country
from people who want to set up similar stores in their own hometowns.
Proof, perhaps, of an idea whose time may have come.