Habitat For Humanity ReStore: My Story

This is a post from Micheal Oswald.

As one pulls into Sechelt, on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, you might see a building on the left hand side at 5605 Sunshine Coast Highway. The sign reads ReStore. You might say to yourself, “Hmm, what goes on in there anyway?”

Here, ladies and gents, is your answer…

The ReStore sells new and used materials for home building and furnishing. The money made in the ReStore goes to support Habitat For Humanity, a non-profit organization that helps build affordable home ownership for low-income families.

I began volunteering at ReStore in the spring of 2013. I found myself among friendly people, volunteers like me, most of whom had been there for months or even years. They are all helpful and my tasks are never more than I can handle.

I help mostly in the back of the store where donations are inspected and cleaned. I have washed stoves, fridges and freezers, dusted tables and chairs, wiped grit and grime from washers and dryers, all the while knowing that I, like my fellow volunteers, am helping the cause.

I work a shift there every Tuesday to Thursday for an hour or two. I enjoy seeing familiar faces, saying hello and while I work, shooting the breeze with my friends.

I am happy with my position as volunteer and would not change it. I dedicate my time at ReStore to help the cause of Habitat For Humanity, which is “Giving A Hand Up, Not A Hand Out”

“It’s all about building affordable housing. Habitat Sunshine Coast’s mission is to lift low-income families out of the poverty cycle through home ownership.  Our volunteers are your friends and neighbors who contribute to the community by raising funds.”

That is a quote from the ReStore’s website stating that through the generosity of community members and the diligent work of all the volunteers, profits from each sale of materials, anything from a door knob to a lazy boy couch goes into providing housing for those who might otherwise be without. To me, this sounds like a grand plan and I am overjoyed at being a part of it.

I recently asked Luanne, an employee at ReStore, three questions and she came back with amazing answers. The first question I asked her was, “How long have you worked at Restore? Her reply was that she started as a part time clerk position in July of 2011 and was eventually offered and accepted the job of Assistant Manager in June of 2012, which she still holds today

The second query was, “What is it like to work at ReStore?” Luanne said her background is in retail as a clerk, a waitress, department store manager, commercial and home construction. She said that people find her organizational skills to be an asset for customers looking for items. She also likes working with volunteers, some of whom are from the retired age group. Luanne feels that with their help non-profit organizations such as Habitat For Humanity really get a boost.

The last inquiry I had was, “How does what you do contribute to the mission of Habitat For Humanity?” Luanne replied, that the whole experience of Restore, the sales, the donations of goods, all of those things go towards the building of homes for those who might not otherwise have a place to live. Habitat For Humanity’s slogan is “A hand up, not a hand out”

When I talked to volunteer Earl, he said he feels good about contributing and being a part of something bigger. He works a 2-4 hour shift every week and has done so for a few months.

Bruce is an employee at ReStore and does the pickups and drop offs of goods, furniture and appliances. He told me that he worked with Restore first as a volunteer for a year and a half, then moved to being a truck driver three and a half years ago. Bruce enjoys meeting and helping new people everyday. He is certainly an essential member of the family.

On Sunday, November 17, 2013 I went to a rib feast organized by ReStore and Habitat For Humanity as an appreciation event for volunteers. About 80 people attended. There were plates and plates of ribs and bowls of salad cooked by board members, ReStore staff and friends. Starbucks graciously donated an urn of java and Claytons Grocery donated a delicious cake.

I spoke with several volunteers and board members and got their perspective on the mission of Habitat For Humanity and how they contribute to it.

First, I had a chat with a nice man named Ken who along with his great wife Margie, work at the cashable recycling program that helps raise funds for Habitat For Humanity. He said that he, along with thirty regular volunteers, sort the different soda, juice and alcohol containers and twice a week the Restore truck picks them up and delivers them to Caps Off at the rear of Trail Bay Centre in Sechelt and collects the refunds.

Ken says he feels good about Habitat’s mission as it helps folks self esteem to be able to have a roof over their head. He sees a direct connection between that one soda can you don’t throw out and the ability for a child to live in a stable environment. So true.

Margie has worked at the cashable program for 9 years, since the days before Restore, back when the refundable cans and bottles were the sole fundraiser. She is a founding member of the Board of Directors. Margie commented that she enjoys being useful “at all levels” and feels like “the jobs have chosen her”. So eloquent.

Margie has a particular passion for fundraising. She told me a story of when the organization had acquired some ACET workers but they were yet to get a permit for the building site for homes. Margie said that they built and sold “play houses” (one of which my family bought and now sits as my father’s workshop) She was a new grandma at the time and also purchased one as a tree house for her grandchildren.

I also talked with fellow volunteer Will who works the Friday shift, 9 a.m. to noon. He is a ‘do anything’ type of fellow and fixes what needs fixing. He feels his contribution to Habitat For Humanity’s mission is a small, but essential component of something much larger. Will gave a great quote “The person who gives the gift is moved more than the one who receives it.” Wonderful.

Lastly I interviewed Janet who is the chair of the Family Selection Committee. I asked Janet what series of emotions she feels when she has found a family and a home.

“A thrill and a honour to be able to tell a family they have a home” was her reply.

Janet informed me of the process that families must go through to be chosen. They must perform 500 hours of volunteer work and must be able to afford a mortgage and pay taxes. They must be within a certain income level and able to maintain the home. The families must sign a letter of acceptance in which Habitat For Humanity outlines what they can provide and how.

Janet finds that “Organizations on the Coast working together gets the mission of Habitat For Humanity and it’s work done well and efficiently.”

This is really just one small story about Habitat’s work on the Sunshine Coast. There is always another story waiting to be written. The ReStore is still open, merchandise is still being donated and sold, and employees and volunteers still meet everyday to work on behalf of Habitat For Humanity’s mission. They still find time within their busy work hours to joke around, kid each other, shoot the breeze and generally act like a well-knit family.

A family I am really happy to be a part of.

About Micheal Oswald

Micheal was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario and moved to the Sunshine Coast, after being adopted at the age of 6. While he has lived in many different circumstances both on and off the Sunshine Coast, he is currently living in Roberts Creek, British Columbia with his family. Micheal lives with the challenges and opportunities that come from being born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and a number of other conditions. However, he has several ‘abilities’ within his ‘disabilities’ that he celebrates. He has been a writer from the beginning, has become an accomplished athlete with Special Olympics, and has a love for music that is only paralleled by his love for the written word. He works and volunteers at several places on the Sunshine Coast but especially enjoys his time and the pleasant atmosphere at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Sechelt.

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