Not everyone knows the HabiStore sells more than appliances and furniture – and Herb Ross was no exception.
The first day he started volunteering at the HabiStore, his jaw dropped when he looked around. “I got here and looked over at the wall – and there’s paintings up all over! It was like a gallery! I couldn’t believe it.” And he knew right away that was where he wanted to be.
Two days a week, Herb can be found at the art wall. “We get paintings in constantly. And I put together the art wall – it’s like putting together a puzzle!” The wall is filled with canvas, framed painting, prints and posters – of all different sizes and styles. “Some of the wild modern art paintings that come in are just funky! We get the college kids looking to put things up in their apartments and dorm rooms and they say, ‘I love that!’”
Often, when Herb returns to the HabiStore a few days later, there are many blank spots he needs to refill with new works of art. The sparkle in his eyes is undeniable: he loves this work.
“I’ve been in art all my life,” says Herb, who worked in art printing and reproducing his entire career. One of his favorite things about working at the HabiStore is getting to put his talents to work – that his expertise is trusted and appreciated. He takes pride knowing how to spot and price giclée – art that has been reproduced and digitally onto canvas – and arranging the HabiStore’s wall of art in a stylistic and captivating way. Sometimes he’ll point out to customers that on the back of the painting, there’s a history of the artist.
“Most people don’t know, but I know it’s back there! And so I’ll say, ‘You know, the artist is listed on the back – what he did and why he painted it.’ And they get excited about it,” Herb says, smiling. “Those little things give me joy.”
Herb has been volunteering at the HabiStore for the past 4 years, and he’s been responsible for helping grow the art wall – literally! It used to be only half the size it is today, and Herb approached the HabiStore Manager about devoting unused wall space to display more paintings and artwork.
“Instead of having to flip through a stack of photos, people can see them – that gives me joy! I can really be creative,” Herb says.
When not volunteering at the HabiStore, Herb volunteers at Tucson Gem and Mineral Society as well as the Botanical Gardens, where he gives tours through the butterfly house. Volunteering is very natural and rewarding for Herb.
“It gives you a joy to be able to feel like you’re contributing,” Herb says. “It’s a good feeling to know what you do is appreciated. For me to sit at home, I guess that’s just not the way I’m built.”
He also appreciates the incredible community he’s built as a volunteer. “Everyone here at the HabiStore is phenomenal. I’ve got good friends, good fun – it’s an enjoyable environment. If it wasn’t that way I wouldn’t be here. And we have a blast here!”
Herb has also bonded with many Habitat homebuyers over the years, who complete some of their sweat equity at the store. He sees both the labor of the homebuyers and the sale of materials as crucial to Habitat’s mission, to make the world a more just and compassionate place. “Everything we do here helps build their house,” he emphasizes. “Habitat’s mission here is phenomenal. The money we raise for that is amazing.”