Bringing the jam to help people out of one

Find out why a retired Nelson couple give up half their week to help build more houses for their community.

"You'd better get in quick or they'll be gone!"

Rachel Chapman-Munro is behind the counter, rearranging the display of her homemade jams because, as she says, they're going quick.

"People ask about my jam: 'When's she going to make the mandarin preserve? When's the tangelo marmalade coming?'"

Every week, propelled by popular demand, Rachel makes two batches of jam at home with whatever fruit gets donated to the Nelson ReStore, one of 23 second-hand shops in New Zealand which support Habitat for Humanity's mission to build homes and communities. Along with everything else that's sold here, the proceeds go towards Habitat for Humanity's mission to transform the lives of 75,000 Kiwis over the next three years through warm, dry housing with help from proud partner AMI.

But it takes a village. A village of volunteers.

Among them are Rachel and her husband Wayne Chapman. Both retired, they spend half of their week at the Nelson ReStore, knowing that their work helps local whānau and individuals find a healthy home. Over the past 25 years, their efforts - along with many others - have helped 26 local families achieve their dream of home ownership.

Resembling more of a department store than your typical op shop, the well-organised ReStore is just one component of Habitat for Humanity's sprawling Hub, which sits on the outskirts of Nelson and houses other grassroots and social initiatives. There are more than 100 volunteers who keep this place "buzzing", as Rachel describes it.

"We come here three times a week because we love it," she says. "All the volunteers are so positive and supportive. They're generous, spirited people. And it all makes a difference."

"It's a fun place," Wayne adds. "I'm very proud to be part of this. I love what it's for, what it's about, and the care that's given to us as volunteers."

Rachel's jam enterprise is a mere dollop on the side compared to what she and Wayne really bring to the table.

Behind the constantly swinging double doors that link the ReStore to the bustling hangar-like storeroom, Rachel is hard at work. A lover of crafting and textiles, Rachel is motivated by recycling and sustainable living. Nothing goes to waste on her watch, and you can tell: Sheets of paper, spare buttons, cloth and various textiles are piled high, draped over sewing machines, boxes, and bags of luminous felt-tip pens. If her phone were to ring, it might take some finding.

Being so buried in your work, almost literally in Rachel's case, you'd be forgiven for losing a sense of the bigger picture.

"No, it's really easy to see what this can achieve," Rachel explains. "One of the things I enjoy hearing about is the income we generate. At the end of the year, when you realise you helped make a million dollars to help get these homes built, you think 'well that was worth it'.

"Every Thursday we also get a newsletter about what's been happening, who's managed to be housed. It's really good to see the end product."

Back on the shop floor, Wayne is admiring his work - an array of perfectly-functioning heaters which can be snapped up for a fraction of the price if they were bought new.

It's a fitting reminder that winter is just around the corner. Heaters will soon click to life again as whānau across Nelson rug up for the months ahead.

Recently, 88 families applied for 12 new houses under construction in nearby Stoke that were made possible by Habitat for Humanity's progressive home ownership programme - a success story on one hand, but a clear indication Nelson is no escapee from New Zealand's desperate demand for warm, healthy homes.

Wayne applies his rigorous testing expertise as a registered electrician to ensure all donated electrical goods and whiteware are safe to sell. Kettles, hobs, crepe makers - if it involves plugs and batteries, you can be sure it's come across Wayne's desk.

"We're selling this stuff to make money to build houses. But we're also offering - at affordable prices - stuff to go in the houses as well," explains ReStore Manager Becky Wyatt.

Naturally, Becky is always on the lookout for volunteers. But her hope is that more people with professional qualifications like Wayne will come forward to volunteer their services.

"We could take people with any kind of skills. Whether it's making sure the stock we sell is safe or even building maintenance skills like plumbing," she says.

For Nelson General Manager Nick Clarke, the whole kaupapa of Habitat for Humanity simply wouldn't exist without the generosity and goodwill of volunteers.

"Our volunteers are big-hearted outward-looking people. That's a huge quality," Nick says. "If you put that into effect locally, there can be so many benefits. So we're always asking, 'What can we do as Kiwis to bring about change?'. What we're doing is working towards a society and a world that is hope-filled."

Nick admits there's a long road ahead. But given the "game-changing" successes they've had in helping people out of "dire situations" and into safe homes, it's clear that something about Habitat for Humanity's work here is sticking - and it's not just Rachel's jam.