Community Building in Portland OR with Habitat for Humanity: Joe Connell, ReStores

Habitat for Humanity’s Joe Connell looks on during a dedication celebration.

Are you familiar with Habitat for Humanity and ReStore, and the amazing community building they support in the Portland and Vancouver metro areas?

Classique Floors + Tile has been involved with Habitat’s ReStore as well as the building of new homes in this area for many years. And we continue to be amazed with each interaction. We think you will, too, when you read what Joe Connell from Habitat for Humanity Portland/Vancouver Metro shares with us in this article. He is vice president of retail operations for Habitat for Humanity in the Portland Metro/Vancouver area.

ReStores have become the front door for the Habitat for Humanity organization.

Joe Connell describes how Habitat for Humanity enables community building in Portland OR

CF+T: What is the ReStore Mission?

JC: Our mission is to support the home building efforts of Habitat for Humanity, keep things out of the waste stream, and provide affordable building materials back to the community. All three feed each other.

Home building serves a bigger scope whereas ReStore diversifies work within the community. The side effect is that it provides volunteer and job placement opportunities for the community. We have back-to-work program volunteers as well as those reentering the work force working for us.

Habitat for Humanity Portland/Vancouver Metro has 3 ReStores, each approximately 25k square feet in size. We employ forty people in each of the following three locations:

  • Portland
The Portland OR ReStore

The Portland OR ReStore

  • Washington County
ReStore in Washington County OR

ReStore in Washington County OR

  • Clark County – Vancouver
ReStore in Clark County, Vancouver OR

ReStore in Clark County, Vancouver OR

Locating property is most important; and also the hardest. We are looking for Target retail-type spaces and can’t afford high profile spaces. The need for more stores is tremendous and we are just scratching the surface. Most donors come from a 5 to 10-mile radius of the store.

From a waste stream perspective, the recently approved deconstruction ordinance will make a lot more materials available for Habitat for Humanity. People buy into the idea of reusing and that’s part of the ReStore success.

>> See First of its Kind: Deconstruction Resolution Approved

CF+T: What does Habitat for Humanity and the ReStores do in the Portland/Vancouver vicinity? How do they help the community?

JC: We have clear metrics available. More specifically,

  • Raised $1.2 million for Habitat for Humanity
  • Diverted over 12 million pounds of reusable materials from area landfills
  • Raised $80,000 from metal recycling
  • 60,000 volunteer hours (providing job training, mentoring opportunities, and a great way to connect to community)

There are 862 ReStores across the country and the Portland/Vancouver ReStores are in the top 6 delivering results to the community.

Habitat for Humanity changes lives in the community of Portland OR

What’s harder to measure are the lives that have been changed; that’s where stories come in.

For example, a driver who had been trying to find work came to us through a work program. We’ve just hired him on as one of our regulars. He states that the job and the organization have changed his life. These stories abound as homes are built and the community becomes engaged. The ReStores have created a real sense of community between shoppers and volunteers. These are life-changing experiences. All are completely involved in the work. Volunteers become staff, then they volunteer in another capacity.

>> Read the Portland, OR Habitat for Humanity ReStories.

CF+T: Joe, how do you know Judith Huck and how did you first connect with Classique Floors + Tile?

JC: Judith was a board member for the Mt. Hood Habitat for Humanity affiliate 12 to 13 years ago. (The Mt. Hood and Portland affiliates merged about 8-9 years ago.) She was board president when the board approved the initial business plan to expand ReStores, and Judith was instrumental in developing the multi-store model. She has been a ReStore donor ever since.

We went from a single ReStore operating in the central east side warehouse district where we tried to cover the entire metro area and were nowhere near our potential. The business plan proposed a multi-store format which was cutting edge. Most ReStores are owned by a single affiliate and we wanted to create a model where four affiliates collaborated on the ReStore effort rather than compete for resources, donations and results.

Judith also works on the construction side of Habitat for Humanity.

Judith Huck with her daughter building a Habitat for Humanity home in 2013

Judith Huck with her daughter building a Habitat for Humanity home in 2013

CF+T: Which homes is Classique Floors + Tile working on?

JC: Classique is involved with Helensview. This was originally the site of a 40-home project by a former nonprofit that was unable to complete the project when the recession hit. Habitat stepped in and purchased the remaining land for 20 homes for hardworking, low-income families in the Portland area.

>> See Current Portland Metro East Habitat for Humanity Builds/Helensview

The Helensview Habitat for Humanity project

The Helensview Habitat for Humanity project

When Habitat builds homes, it’s mostly from scratch although it will take foreclosed homes and update them or add more homes. These buildings will then form an association that creates a community.

Every homeowner selected has to do 500 hours of sweat equity working on the home, in a Restore or for Habitat. We provide a ‘hand up’ not a handout; this is the theology of the hammer.

It’s a long process to be selected. There’s tremendous need and the hardest work is selecting who gets a home. The process is need-based and includes their ability to partner with Habitat. This is not a free house; we sell the house on a 0% interest mortgage and the recipient has to be able to work to support the mortgage.

>> See Frequently Asked Questions about Habitat for Humanity Portland/Vancouver Metro

Future Habitat home for a deserving family

Future Habitat home for a deserving family

>> Read about other Habitat builds such as Vancouver’s Evergreen Habitat which partnered with the Geometry in Construction program. Two area high school student groups built two homes that were transported to the Winchell build site where Habitat staff and volunteers completed them: Evergreen Habitat for Humanity dedicates two new houses.

CF+T: How can people get involved with Habitat’s ReStores?

JC: Shop in our ReStores. Donate. Volunteer.

Get involved: Shop ReStores, Donate or Volunteer. Habitat-for-Humanity Portland/Vancouver Metro

CF+T: Thank you, Joe.

What’s your experience with Habitat for Humanity and ReStores? Wouldn’t you agree that both play a critical role in community building in the Portland OR area?

Thanks for reading,

Classique Floors + Tile

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