Habitat For Humanity’s Restores are all volunteer run

Linda Greenwood with some of her upcycled creations.  Photo by Yana Dimitrova
Gordon Sheriff.  Photo by: Yana Dimitrova
From left to right: Volunteers Lorraine Peloquin, Sharon Pederson, and Deb Foster working in the Comox Valley ReStore's back room. | Photo by John Bonner

When you think about volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, images of hammers, hard hats and lumber are likely what comes to mind.

But working on the build site is not the only way volunteers support Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. While they might not swing a hammer, ReStore volunteers play a vital role in the construction of safe and affordable Habitat homes.

The ReStore is the social enterprise that funds Habitat for Humanity’s operations and helps to ensure that financial resources are available to support their affordable housing projects. Volunteers help support almost every area of the store, working in cash, merchandising, shipping and receiving, recycling, electronics testing and more. Out of the 23,833 volunteer hours completed by Habitat volunteers in 2021, over 19,000 took place at their ReStores.

Volunteers report different reasons for supporting the store. They might be drawn in by the social aspect, environmental impact, opportunities to learn new skills or utilize the ones they already have, or the unique treasures that are donated. All of them are united by their passion for Habitat’s mission. Volunteers work side by side with future Habitat homeowners who complete their own volunteer hours as part of their partnership.

“Habitat is a great organization that does great things,” said Bruce Rowe, a former Comox Valley ReStore staff member who now volunteers once a week in the receiving department, testing electronics prior to putting them onto the floor for resale. “Supporting people so they can own their own homes, while also helping to reduce waste in the landfill by reusing and recycling. When you volunteer with Habitat it is good for the community, and what is good for the community is good for everyone. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t enjoy it so much.”

“The people are just super and it’s kind of fun because new stuff comes in every day,” added Linda Greenwood, who has been volunteering with the Comox Valley ReStore for four years.

Volunteers like Linda have the opportunity to use their creativity to support Habitat even further. In her free time, she often salvages items she has found at the ReStore that would be otherwise be thrown out and uses them to create new items that are then sold at the store.

She joins other volunteers who have contributed their unique talents and leadership to special store initiatives: Diana Lake who re-arranged the art into an attractive gallery wall; Sharon Pederson who created the store’s Collectibles Cupboard; Keith Kent who leads the Kitchen Salvage team; and all of the volunteers working on the store’s new ‘ReStore ReMarkables’ auction.

The ReStore also attracts volunteers who are passionate about the environment. ALSO: Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North wins national award for online auction

“I look at my job here as a ‘Landfill Avoidance Technician,’” said Gordon Sheriff, who volunteers at the store twice a week. “You’re doing a world of good if you come here because all this stuff would otherwise have ended up in the landfill.”

Both ReStores have a metal recycling program where volunteers strip metal from non-working appliances, lights and electronics that have been donated. In 2021, volunteers at the Comox Valley and Campbell River ReStores helped divert a total of 727,955 pounds of metal.

Most of the ReStore volunteers aren’t looking for accolades; they give back to the community because they believe it is the right thing to do. That doesn’t stop ReStore leadership from showing their appreciation with a 25 per cent store discount and recognition events planned throughout the year. This is yet another area where volunteer support comes in. Talented baking enthusiast Marcie Mycan keeps volunteers and staff supplied with a steady intake of her delicious treats.

“The volunteers and staff are ever so gracious and appreciative and it makes me feel so good to share,” said Mycan.

On National Volunteer Week and every week, the team at Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North is grateful to the volunteers who power the ReStores. Every volunteer’s contribution helps a local family realize their dream of homeownership.

The ReStore is always in need of additional volunteer support. If you are interested in joining this fun, supportive, and passionate team, email volunteercv@habitatnorthisland.com, call (250) 334-3777 ext. 226, or visit habitatnorthisland.com for more information.

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