What started with one small ReStore has grown into a national force, building affordable housing for low-income families while reducing the strain on landfills across the country.
ReStore began 25 years ago with a small space in Winnipeg, in similar fashion to a lot of thrift stores that raise money to further charitable initiatives.
The founders of Habitat for Humanity looked at the amount of waste in construction and thought there could be a secondary market for those materials, said Jim Walker, manager of the Langford ReStore on Orono Avenue.There are now 99 ReStores across Canada in every province and the Yukon.
“We like to think we’re a thrift store on steroids,” Walker said. “We have an emphasis on big, heavy materials, larger items oriented to construction and home improvement.”
The opening of another ReStore soon on the Lower Mainland will bring the total to 100. That represents a million square feet of store space, with more than 470 employees across the country augmented by 750,000 volunteer hours, Walker said.
The largest store in Calgary, at 28,000 square feet, is considerably more than double the size of the Langford location. The ReStore in Langford has 17 full and part-time staff and a crew of dedicated volunteers selling everything from building, plumbing and electrical supplies, hardware and lighting to housewares, furniture, appliances and more.
Proceeds from ReStores nationally in 2015 brought in $20 million for Habitat for Humanity and diverted 36,000 tons of material from landfills.
“Everything we sell is donated,” Walker said, with about half of the items coming from corporations consisting of discontinued lines that have never been used.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the support of individuals and corporations,” he said. “Without that, most of that stuff would just wind up in the trash.”
ReStore makes a difference on many levels.
Whether it’s helping people with renovations, enabling landlords to improve their properties or reducing waste headed for the landfill, the surplus they sell funds the Habitat for Humanity operations that build homes for people who need a helping hand, Walker said.
“That creates a feeling of accomplishment. I can’t speak for them, but the staff and volunteers seem happy to be here and I think they share that feeling of accomplishment as well.
“You really see a that when families take possession of a Habitat for Humanity home that they would not be able to afford on their own,” he noted. “That’s something all employees have the opportunity to see firsthand.”
For more on ReStore and Habitat for Humanity, visit habitatvictoria.com/restore.html.