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A Tree Grows in U City: Habitat Landscapes Homes

The Habitat for Humanity homes built in University City in 2012 received landscaping on Friday.

Five months after holding a dedication, the owners of University City's first five Habitat for Humanity houses got to celebrate spring by landscaping their homes.

On Friday, volunteers from the U.S. Navy recruting offices in St. Louis and Fairview Heights, IL, planted trees and shrubs at the homes in the Bartmer and Kingsland area. 

Ten trees for the homes were purchased by USAgain, a textile recycling company.

“We’re proud to provide trees to be planted at Habitat for Humanity’s houses in St. Louis,” says Mattias Wallander, CEO of USAgain, in a press release. “Considering their social initiatives and goals of sustainability, our decision to partner with Habitat for Humanity to plant trees in St. Louis was an easy and natural one. We believe planting trees is an excellent way to affect positive environmental change.”

The houses were dedicated in December. The homes were built to LEED Platinum standards. Each home is a four bedroom, 1.5 bath, two story home. 

See our previous coverage:

  • Habitat for Humanity Dedicates U City Homes
  • Habitat Homeowners: Lisa Jones
  • Habitat Homeowners: Treondus and Tyanna Sanderson
  • Habitat Homeowners: Johanda Willis
  • Habitat Homeowners: Superior Robinson
  • Anheuser-Busch Partners with Habitat for Humanity
  • Habitat Raises the Roof in University City
  • Habitat for Humanity Blitz Build: Day 4
  • Habitat for Humanity Blitz Build: Day 2
  • Habitat for Humanity Blitz Build: Day 1

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Wade Larsen May 13, 2013 at 08:48 AM
I'm all for planting trees, and helping people, but after having researched USAgain and related groups for over four years, I’m very disturbed by what I’ve learned. In my opinion, Habit for Humanity should take a closer look at who it has chosen to partner with. Even a casual Internet search shows that USAgain has drawn much media criticism. Reports going back a decade have suggested that the for-profit company, to quote one TV news investigation, “...routinely pretended to be a charity so business owners wouldn't ask for rent on the bin space.” (See “KIRO 7” reports, in next comment) It’s true that USAgain clearly admits its for-profit status on its newer bins, many of which state “USAgain is a for profit clothes collection company. Deposits are not tax deductible.” http://www.usagain.com/upload/5170245956_8031d0d418_b.jpg Seems honest enough. But the company’s older bins were worded very differently. One statement on those bins was “We cooperate with schools, non-profits, city recycling programs and local businesses to bring this recycling option to your community.” Time Magazine in 2003 called USAgain’s bins “vaguely labeled.” Time also quoted a Lake Zurich, Ill. business owner who had agreed to host a USAgain bin: “Never, never did they mention they were making money off of it. If I had known they were going to sell the clothing for profit, I wouldn't have gotten involved.” (Continued in my 2nd comment)
Wade Larsen May 13, 2013 at 08:55 AM
(2nd comment) Like its newer bins, USAgain’s revised website now plainly states its for-profit status. But such unequivocal wording may have been forced upon USAgain in 2010 by Washington State’s Attorney General, who had the previous year told Seattle’s KIRO 7 News that USAgain was “not properly licensed to collect used clothes” in that state. According to documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, in late 2009 it had come to the attention of Washington’s Secretary of State that USAgain was engaging in “charitable solicitations,” as defined in that state’s Charitable Solicitations Act. As a result, USAgain was given two choices: 1) register as a “commercial fundraiser”, or 2) change the language on its bins and website so the public wouldn’t likely perceive that USAgain was engaging in charitable solicitations. USAgain via its lawyers initially resisted such requirements, but gave in, opting to change the wording on its bins & website — hence the new bin design with the prominent disclaimer. USAgain had already run into the same problem in MO a few years earlier. KMOV 4 News in St. Louis reported in February 2007 that local donors and business owners thought USAgain was a charitable organization, much like Goodwill or The Salvation Army. The report also quoted USAgain CEO Mattias Wallander defending his company, saying that it clearly states its for-profit status on the company's website and on its bins. (continued in 3rd comment)
Wade Larsen May 13, 2013 at 08:59 AM
(3rd comment) Wallander apologized in the KMOV report to anyone who was given the impression that USAgain was a charity. But that wasn’t good enough for Missouri Rep. Jake Zimmerman, who drafted a bill requiring companies like USAgain to plainly state their motives on their collection bins. In 2007, then Missouri governor Matt Blunt signed the bill into law, requiring USAgain bins in that state to carry a disclaimer in at least two-inch high lettering. In a bizarre twist, both KIRO 7 and KMOV 4 also reported that prosecutors in Denmark have tied USAgain to an alleged cult called the “Tvind Teachers Group” (“TG” or “Tvind” for short). Several TG leaders are international fugitives wanted in their native Denmark in connection with a multimillion-dollar tax-fraud and embezzlement scheme. ● From KIRO 7 Eyewitness News, Seattle; 2009: Part 1: http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/millions-clothing-donations-diverted-charity/nFgRJ/ Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yb1G_vsc9E To clarify, I doubt that *everyone* working for USAgain is involved with the Teachers Group; rather, it’s likely only the top leadership. The company’s laborers and local managers are probably just regular folks trying to hold down a job. But the *text* version of Part One of KIRO 7’s report quotes a former USAgain branch manager who says she had been pressured to join the Teachers Group. (continued in 4th comment)
Wade Larsen May 13, 2013 at 09:28 AM
(4th comment) In 2012, Wallander told the Lincoln Courier in Illinois that “USAgain is a private, independently run company founded by an American citizen and based in Chicago. USAgain is not affiliated in any way with the Teacher’s Group.” http://tinyurl.com/blclvv7 But documentation indicates otherwise: 1) In part 2 of KIRO’s report (at 4:27), Wallander admits his membership in the Teachers Group, reportedly an elite group within the broader Tvind organization. 2) Wallander also admitted to KIRO 7 News that he is not the majority owner of USAgain. KIRO 7 learned that the majority stakeholder is “a Caribbean-based holding company called Fairbank, Cooper & Lyle“ (FC&L). The report cited a 2001 Danish court document showing FC&L “has financial ties to an alleged cult called the Tvind Teachers Group.” Here is that court document from The Public Prosecutor for Serious Economic Crime, in Denmark. At the bottom of p. 4 of the document, prosecutors list USAgain as one of Tvind's “productive activities.” FC&L first appears on p. 7: http://tinyurl.com/bxajpc2 3) An archival page from FC&L's 2008 website prominently features USAgain: http://tinyurl.com/aegxgup But soon after the KIRO 7 story aired in late 2009, any mention of USAgain was removed from the FC&L website: http://www.fcl-ltd.com/id9.html So, is USAgain not quite as “independent” & “American” as Mr. Wallander says it is? More info: http://humana-alert.org.uk/ (continued in 5th comment)
Wade Larsen May 13, 2013 at 09:31 AM
(5th comment) Here is just a sampling of other bad press USAgain has received over the years: ● Chicago Tribune, 2011: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-tvind-gaia-update-20110514,0,2640974.story ● Herald & Review; Decatur, Illinois; 2011: http://www.herald-review.com/news/local/article_b3869dde-3401-11e0-ae2a-001cc4c03286.html ● Denver Post; 2005 (convenience link): http://www.icsahome.com/logon/elibdocview.asp?Subject=BBB%3A+Charity+bins+suspect ● Chicago Tribune, 2004: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2004-02-12/features/0402120028_1_gaia-bins-clothes ● Time Magazine, 2003: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1005148-1,00.html Thanks for allowing me to express my opinion. Please research before you donate ... AND before you chose a corporate partner.

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