Call For Volunteer Artists: Design & Build Rebuilding Center’s Outdoor Signage

Call for Volunteer Artists: Design & Build ReBuilding Center’s Outdoor Signage

The ReBuilding Center is putting out a call for artists for a design/build project to help us attract and welcome people to the ReBuilding Center and to be part of the reuse movement.

About the ReBuilding Center:


Every day, 8 tons of donated materials move through our store on North Mississippi Avenue, with proceeds benefitting our education, volunteer, and community-building programs. For example, last month we celebrated with partners the completion of four tiny homes—made of salvaged materials from RBC and with solar power—for the houseless at Dignity Village. We are continuing to see amazing growth of our ReFind Education classes (we recently added DIY Plumbing Repairs, Kinetic Toys, and Tool Sharpening to our skills-building offerings). The support of the ReBuilding Center community allows us to donate over $35,000 in salvaged materials to 200+ local schools and nonprofits every year.

About the Project:

Many people travel past our entrances every day and do not know that we are open to the public, seven days a week! We are in need of some eye-catching, new signage that helps people find their way into the ReBuilding Center’s treasure trove and showcases repurposed materials in a way that inspires reuse.

We are inviting artists to submit proposals for the design and build of four new signs for our four main entrances seen by thousands of visitors to our Mississippi Avenue Store, Education Shop, and offices. Each of the selected artists will design and build one sign.

If you are selected for one of these design/build projects, you will be awarded:

  • A $200 ReBuilding Center (RBC) gift certificate 
  • RBC will showcase your artwork in a newsletter article (that goes out to our 7,000+ readers), on our social media, and website.
  • A small placard placed near the artwork with your name/business
  • The work will be installed at one of the exterior locations for all to see!
 Locations of future signage sites

Locations of future signage sites

Scope of project:

  • Each artist will be awarded one outdoor sign to design/build.
  • Generally, should measure 3’x8’ (each sign location will require slightly different dimensions).
  • Should be created using 80% ReBuilding Center materials (donated from RBC to you for the project).
  • Must include RBC’s logo and specified language.
  • Must be weather-proofed.
  • Must be high-visibility (easy to see and read from a distance).
  • Optional: incorporate lighting into your design for night time visibility (otherwise RBC will light your design)

To Apply:

If you are interested, please send a brief (under a paragraph) description of your idea for the project, a rough mock up sketch, and any supporting images that might be helpful to:
By: June 1st, 2018

 We look forward to seeing your creative ideas!

ReBuilding Center's 2018 Guide to Earth Day Portland

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In 2017, the ReBuilding Center was able to divert over three million pounds of materials from the waste stream—that’s the equivalent to the weight 10 blue whales, the largest animal on the planet! As a nonprofit we are committed to sustaining the environment for future generations, and our mission is to inspire others to value and discover existing resources while creating a more sustainable and equitable Portland. This Earth Day, we are celebrating this big blue sphere we call home and invite you to join us in building community through reuse!


Daimler Trucks EcoFair

Friday, April 20th
4555 North Channel Ave, Portland
in the Corporate Conference Center

The ReBuilding Center will be tabling at Daimler Truck’s LEED Platinum certified headquarters with sustainable vendors from across Portland in various sectors including energy, food, waste, nonprofit, volunteering, and more! This event is open to the public and tours will be available at 12:00, 1:00, and 2:00pm.


SOLVE Boise Neighborhood Clean-Up

Saturday, April 21st
832 N Beech St, Portland

The ReBuilding Center is proud sponsor of this neighborhood cleanup, providing garbage disposal for all of the materials that volunteer teams will be working to remove from our parks and sidewalks and keeping them out of our local waterways. Are you interested in volunteering? All cleanup supplies will be provided. SOLVE asks that you come dressed for the weather with a refillable water bottle. Meet at Stormbreaker Brewing’s patio at 8:30am for supplies before heading into the neighborhood at 9am. Afterwards, enjoy a free pint back at Stormbreaker at 12pm!

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Happy Earth Day in the Native Grove

Saturday, April 21st
300 N Ivy St, Portland

As one of the ReBuilding Center’s Community Outreach partners, it’s been wonderful to see Boise Eliot Native Grove transform an empty lot into a community space for “relaxation, contemplation, and play.” The aim of this plot is to bring neighbors together to create an “oasis of nature & art in the midst of our urban neighborhood.” The grove supports local insects and birds by creating a habitat with native plants, flowers, and trees. If you are interested in learning more about plants, animals, and how we fit into our ecosystem, attend this planting party. Get to know your neighbors while getting some exercise in nature and enjoy some snacks!


Inner City Blues Festival

Saturday, April 21st
North Portland Eagle’s Lodge
$20 (21+)

After all your work cleaning, fixing, planting and/or communing, nourish your soul at the 7th Annual Healing and Healthcare Inner City Blues Festival. Come say “hi” to the ReBuilding Center at our booth and learn more about our carpentry classes, volunteer opportunities, and free pick-ups during a wonderful night of food and music.

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Fix-It-Fair at the ReBuilding Center

Tuesday, April 24th
3625 N Mississippi Ave, Portland

The ReBuilding Center is so excited to host a Fix-It-Fair in our woodshop! Volunteers will be fixing broken small appliances, mending garments, repairing bikes and small engines, sharpening tools/knives (limited 2 items per person), and repairing shoes. This event is free and open to the public. Last year we were able to serve over 60 people and fixed over 80 items, so come on by with your items and help support the reuse economy!

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Buy Reused or Take a DIY Carpentry Class

If you are not able to make it to one of these events, consider stopping by the ReBuilding Center to purchase some reclaimed materials for a project you’ve been looking to start, or sign up for a hands-on carpentry class and learn how to creatively work with salvaged materials. We are now offering programming for youth 16 years of age and older, including brand-new classes like Kinetic Toys and DIY Plumbing Repairs.

However you spend your Earth Day/Week/Year, we hope we can be a sustainable resource for you and the community to enable greater self-reliance, creative expression, and connectedness!

Reuse Rockstars Unite at the Association of Oregon Recyclers' Spring Forum

One thing that struck me about the Association of Oregon Recyclers' Spring Forum, entitled “Reuse Systems and Organizations in Action,” was how incredibly rich the reuse culture in Oregon is. I was impressed by organizations small and large, government and nonprofit—from an organization working with the industrial sector’s manufactured byproducts, to a brother and sister team saving lumber from Oregon’s old barns, to the ReBuilding Center's nonprofit building supplies thrift store working to create sustainable communities. Sara Eddie, who does Business Development at RBC, attended the conference and shared this sentiment, saying, “Oregon seems to be a leader in pioneering, innovative reuse efforts. In addition to DEQ's reuse grant program and being the first state to have a city mandatory deconstruction program, I was especially impressed with the refillable bottle program, the Library of Things, and Renewal Workshop.” Here are some recaps of the presentations highlighting Oregon's most vibrant and exciting waste reduction and reuse efforts.

Jules Bailey – Oregon Beverage Recycling Center (OBRC)
Oregon’s Refillable Bottle System


The OBRC announced that it has developed 12-ounce and 500-milliliter refillable bottles that can be taken to a bottle drop, held on to for refilling, and/or can be purchased at breweries. Did you know that Oregon was the last state to have refillable bottles before they went away? Yes, refillable bottles used to be prevalent in our city. Then why did they ever leave? The OBRC explains that it was no longer cost-effective to wash the bottles after the craft beer boom, when many small breweries replaced big facilities and the logistics were just too difficult. But the OBRC is bringing them back, and you will be able to take the bottles to bottle drops centers (in grocery stores) or to their special facilities. Crushing the bottles, melting them down, and fabricating new bottles takes a lot of energy! By introducing reusable containers, there is a lot of carbon savings from skipping those first few steps. Right now, the bottles are being sent to Montana to get washed, and they are working on building a local wash facility so they can supply breweries with quality, durable, and clean bottles made in Portland from repurposed glass. Jules points to Germany, where almost every bottle is washed and reused. The OBRC plans to work with the smaller, hyper-local breweries to keep the bottles in-state. Don’t worry, people will receive the usual 10-cent deposit, and in addition to that, the OBRC will also offer 20% additional savings if you return the bottles in special waxed crates (that can also be reused). The bottles will be hitting the store soon, so keep a lookout for the special bottle shape, label, and debossed inscription “refillable.”

Debra Taevs – ResourceFULL Use
Material Exchange Programs


ResourceFULL Use works with manufactured byproducts based on the Swedish concept of Kulundborg, a resource exchange for materials that come out of the industrial sector. The organization facilitates and builds relationships between businesses to create symbiosis. They find one business that has too much of one byproduct and finds another business who may need it. They facilitate reuse tactics through workshops and networking. ResourceFULL Use described some of the more bizarre waste product exchanges. For instance, they connected a chicken farmer with tons of feathers with a fiberglass company that used the feathers in their fiberglass to strengthen the overall product.  They see materials as possessing a lot of embedded energy and reuse and repurposing as hugely better than recycling. As materials move from raw materials to processing and then consumption, they take on more and more embedded energy. Plus, less consumption leads to more money in your pockets and increased environmental benefits such as greenhouse gas reduction. She spoke about downstream impacts like leaks, emissions, and the environmental cost of transporting goods. Another example of a relationship her company has been able to establish was with Tillamook County and SCRAP. Tillamook had a bunch of reflective signs that artists and educators at SCRAP’s reusable art supply store were able to turn into creative projects. This relationship saved 1,350 pounds of material, which resulted in 1,710 less pounds of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. She ended her talk with a call for anyone who might have use for mylar, a material that a lot of coffee and beer brewers use as well as high tech companies. Any chance you have any ideas?

Brandan Lax – Hillsboro Library of Things
The Library of Things


The ReBuilding Center wrote a blog article a couple weeks ago about the Library of Things happening at the Hillsboro Public Library. Brandan Lax explains that libraries lending out non-traditional items is not a new thing. He began selecting and purchasing items for their collection, like A/V equipment and games, about three years ago, and then slowly started expanding their collection of now 430 things and 350 board games (the largest collection of board games in the United States). He started adding in things like cake pans and robotic Arduino kits, testing to see how the items were returned. The trial was successful and fit in with the library's values of promoting lifelong experiential learning. He points out that in this day and age, anyone can YouTube a subject and learn how to do almost anything. The only thing that’s missing is the actual item. That’s where the Hillsboro Library of Things comes in. Want to try out canning and see if it becomes a new hobby? Check it out with your library card! Their tagline says it all: “Check out an experience.” Today, the Hillsboro Library has supplied 17,342 checkouts of things and 14,844 checkouts of board games. At any given time, 90% of all the items are on hold or in use. Some items, like the ice cream maker, aren’t made to be running day-in-day-out, but if it dies after 50 uses, Brandan sees that as a success because the item is being used to its fullest extent. With your Hillsboro library card, you can check any of these items out for seven days at a time. They consciously did not make late, cleaning, or fixing fees very high, starting with a $1/day late fee and $5 cleaning or servicing fee. The Hillsboro Library of things has been excellent at promoting lesser used items like their chimney sweep kit with their social media and fun videos. Brandan has high hopes that Washington County will get their own Library of Things. He says that not only are libraries really good and experienced at “checking things out,” but they also have the volunteers, resources, and space built in to do it.

Tom Patzkowski – The ReBuilding Center
Sustainable Communities


Our very own Tom Patzkowski, ReBuilding Center Store Manager, gave a passionate and rousing speech about humans' interconnectedness. He illustrated how the ReBuilding Center not only recognizes the potential of materials, but the great potential in people. He also spoke about how our “thrift store for building supplies” places great value on the history of the materials. Pacific Northwest old-growth lumber, for example, took years to grow into giants, then were harvested, then built into some of Portland’s older structures, which RBC is fortunate enough to salvage and give new life. He pointed out how the exactly right conditions came together to bring us the beautiful wood that you can find in the store’s lumberyard: salmon soaked up nitrogen during their travels in the ocean, eventually offered their bodies, creating the perfect conditions for the soil at the end of the streams they traveled up to spawn. “We’re harvesting our cities, not our forests,” Tom said. Many people throughout the conference made comments about how motivational Tom's speech was and how they liked how strongly linked community and reuse can be. As Tom said, "you can’t have one without the other." Tom and the ReBuilding Center believe in changing the way we operate to become more equitable and sustainable, recognizing the power and benefit of reusing materials (that would have otherwise been thrown away), and sustainability’s undeniable connection to community.

Shawn Wood – Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, City of Portland
Deconstruction Ordinances

Did you know that there are 800 billion tons of natural resources in our built environment worldwide? Shawn Wood, who works for the City in their Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) division, is working to turn those liabilities into assets. In Portland, there are 300+ homes that were torn down in the last year, with over half a million square feet of material.


Shawn sets the stage by describing the perceived benefits of demolition versus deconstruction; demolition takes a couple of days, a couple of people, and is relatively cheap and fast. Sometimes when a house comes down they are met with an assembly of angry protesters, toting “Stop Demolishing Portland” signs. People are angry that these buildings are being smashed to a pulp and sent to the landfill through mechanized demolition. This is where deconstruction firms come in—they believe that if a house must come down, that it should be carefully “un-built,” salvaging the component parts for reuse. Portland is leading the charge in this field, nationwide, as the first city in the U.S. to create a deconstruction ordinance. The ordinance requires all structures built before 1916 to be deconstructed rather than demolished. Why 1916? The answer lies in supply and demand. Shawn and his team at BPS want to be careful to not introduce too many materials that the market wouldn't be able to handle. Since the ordinance went into effect, 31% of homes are now being deconstructed and there are more firms than ever. Before moving that date up, the City is introducing yet another ground-breaking ordinance: that all lead or asbestos-containing materials (such as windows, doors, lead-painted siding) must be removed before mechanized demolition of any structure, regardless of the year it was built. The plan is to see how that goes, how contractors respond, and how busy they get removing all of those items. Outside of deconstruction’s relevant environmental and public health benefits, deconstruction also creates jobs. BPS has trained over 30 people in the deconstruction field with preference to people of color, women, and other marginalized groups. The training they held was over half women. Portland’s making waves, or as Shawn points out, maybe they are more like growth rings.

Matt Horvat & Brion Hurley, Lean Portland
About Lean


Lean Portland operates on the principle “work smarter, not harder.” By engaging employees instead of dictating, the team is able to be flexible and introduce new activities that spark new ideas where something might have felt stagnant. This Lean process leads to continuous improvement and respect for people by giving them opportunities they didn’t know they had. The following two presentations were case studies about some of the amazing work they’ve done with some of your favorite nonprofits in the city. If you are interested in their services, Lean provides workshops at Hatch Labs. You can also watch this part of the conference online:

John Ashcroft – Free Geek
Free Geek Study Story


Did you know that if you volunteer for 24 hours, you are eligible for a free refurbished computer? Free Geek has been around for 18 years now, offering classes, volunteer opportunities, and a place to donate and buy electronics. Lean helped them set up stations that were far more efficient, even creating a “learning board” so that interns could consult an illustrated diagram of a circuit board when they were unsure about the intricacies of one of their projects. One system Lean helped implement was a wayfinding system, using colored tape on the floor that directed people to where they needed to go within their labyrinthine building. Lean and Free Geek identified problems as opportunities. When they set a goal of doubling the number of laptops they were able to service, without extra staffing or a “factory-like” environment that still provided fun learning experiences for their volunteers, they found a simple solution. They looked at their inventory and at the things they had too much of or weren’t turning over quickly enough. They decided to only fix things according to need. For instance, they discovered there wasn’t much need for 10 VHS players, so they decided to only take, repair, and stock as many as they could sell, thus freeing them up to repair more laptops. They also streamlined systems, saving space and time. Now Free Geek will take the work that Lean helped them develop and will continue to track issues and implement improvements!

Mike Alfoni – ReBuilding Center
ReBuilding Center Case Study


Reuse retail is no stranger to a little disorder. We are basically organizing the city’s junk drawers and garages. Mike Alfoni walks us through a Lean process “from hardware to easyware” outlining some key steps to getting things in order: get clear, get organized, and get moving. His presentation focused on the trials and tribulations of the ReBuilding Center's miscellaneous hardware section. The process goes like this. Get clear: agree on the situation and the solution. Get organized: set a plan. Then get moving: implement with minimal prototypes. Then do it again! Get clear: test and get feedback. Get organized: revise the system. Get moving: implement minimal changes. When you’re working with inventory of greatly different types, quantities, qualities of materials that aren’t labeled; that arrive at unpredictable times and are handled by unpredictable volunteer labor, it’s important to start small, show the team success, and sustain the process improvements. One young woman during the comments section stood up and said, “I think you’re my spirit animal. Everyone in reuse retail knows how messy it can get and I appreciate your honesty.” The big takeaway from Mike was that it’s important to work as a team, to get clear, organized, and moving together. Without staff buy-in, you won't have consistent use of the system, so make sure to get all parties involved early and do it together!


There were other presenters too: Simon Love from Oregon DEQ did an overview of their grant program for projects that “promote the prevention, recovery, or reuse of solid wastes.”


Nicole Bassett from The Renewal Workshop spoke about how their company set out to solve hard problems and create new systems to "divert clothing and textiles from the landfill and make them into renewed apparel, upcycled materials, and recyclable feedstock." Renewal Workshop works with some big brands, has an online shop, and occasionally you may be able to catch one of their pop-up shops. 


Rachel Browning from Salvage Works spoke about the origins of her and her brother’s business salvaging beautiful old-growth lumber with loads of patina from Oregon’s barns and other architecture.

Forest Endicott, who grew up with deconstruction (over demolition) as the norm, spoke about his experience growing up as the son of ReBuilding Center’s founder, Shane Endicott, basically born with a nail puller in his hand. He has now set out on his own business venture in response to the new ordinance, NW Deconstruction.

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Kelly Caldwell from ReClaim It! talked about their programs such as Glean, a Metro partnership connecting artists with materials from the landfill, their storefront on N Killingworth that salvages materials from the Metro Transfer Station, and about a couple of exciting events coming up including their 19th Annual Reuse Art Show on August 14-15 at McMenamins Edgefield where artists and makers will be showcasing all kinds of creative upcycled creations!

All in all, the conference reflected what a vibrant and progressive reuse culture we have here in Portland—a place where passionate people come together to try to solve issues around waste reduction in creative ways.

Ashley Howe, Marketing & Communications Manager

New Demolition Ordinance Creates Opportunities and Possible Challenges

As the oldest deconstruction firm in the City, the ReBuilding Center’s DeConstruction Services was well positioned to take up the additional work when the City of Portland implemented the mandatory deconstruction requirement for homes built in 1916 or before. The City also had been planning to move up the date of construction for homes subject to the mandatory deconstruction ordinance. However, in February, instead of expanding the mandatory deconstruction ordinance, the City passed an ordinance imposing a series of new requirements for the demolition of homes built after 1916 in the interest of environmental and community health and safety benefits.

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Requirements for home demolitions under the new ordinance include removing the exterior of the house before mechanically demolishing the rest of the structure. This could boost local interest in deconstruction, but new procedural and staffing requirements could prove onerous if the City decides to apply them to deconstruction.

Details of the New Requirements

The new ordinance requires removal of any painted elements on the exterior of houses (windows, doors, siding, etc.), before mechanical demolition. Once the exterior is removed, the permit holder can mechanically demolish the rest of the house, but if they do, the ordinance requires new procedures, including:

  • The contractor must continuously spray water on their equipment and waste materials to suppress dust.
  • All mechanical demolition must stop if winds exceed 25 mph.
  • Place plastic protection around the exterior of the house.
  • Cover all non-salvageable waste containers.
  • Have an accredited asbestos inspector on site during all work.
  • Submit a demolition/deconstruction plan detailing how the contractor will comply with the new requirements.
  • Post notices on all properties within 150 feet of the project at least 72 hours before work starts.

What the New Ordinance May Mean for Us

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The ordinance says that, if the whole house is deconstructed, the watering and the wind speed requirements do not apply. However, there is a lingering question about whether the additional procedural and staffing requirements would apply to whole house deconstructions.

If the City applies the procedural requirements to deconstruction projects, it could create challenges, including:

  • Each new non-mandatory deconstruction job would require additional preparation work to develop a demolition plan and may require additional onsite measures.
  • We'll need to certify multiple deconstruction staff as asbestos inspectors and will have to ensure that each job site always has a certified asbestos inspector on site.

Mandatory Deconstruction v. New Demolition Requirements

The City said they expect the new ordinance to increase the number of whole house deconstructions. Therefore, the City decided not to move up the date for homes subject to mandatory deconstruction, for fear of overwhelming the small number of deconstruction contractors in the area. Traditional demolition contractors may, indeed, decide to hire deconstruction contractors to do the exterior deconstruction. Additionally, some permit holders may opt to deconstruct the entire house. Plus, the new ordinance applies to hundreds of more residential buildings than the mandatory deconstruction ordinance. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that the new ordinance will be beneficial for licensed deconstruction firms.

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What's Next

The City will need to develop rules for implementing the ordinance, including an official statement on what requirements will apply to whole house deconstructions. The City will begin enforcing the new demolition requirements this summer, and DeConstruction Services is prepared to support and comply with any regulations that the City passes to improve environmental and community health.

Sara Eddie, Business Development

"There's still magic in this place" Salvage Specialist, Steve Kugler, celebrates 10 Years at RBC

If you spend enough time at the ReBuilding Center, you’ll start seeing familiar faces. There are seven to ten community members that I am aware of who come in almost daily just to socialize. Sure, they ask questions about materials, but like our tagline says: “materials are the means to help build community.”


I used to say to my wife, “I’ve always wondered what would happen if they all came in at the same time.” And this actually happened once! It was about five or six years ago, and several regulars all showed up and just started talking. I was surrounded. As the conversation picked up among this spontaneous community of like-minded individuals, I drifted away into the background.

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Another one of our regulars is always trying to feed me. We were busy and the alley was kind of backed up, and I was helping load a guest in the front. As I grabbed a piece of plywood, he was standing right behind it. He surprised me and asked: “Would you like some chicken?” When I went back for the next load he popped up from behind again: “Do you like rice?” We have some of the best customers anywhere.

Little things happen, and it makes me feel like we’re doing something right. Someone will be looking for something that they haven’t been able to find for a long time, and it will show up out of the blue in the alley while we’re standing around talking about other resources. There’s still magic in this place. Stuff like that happens here all the time. It makes me hopeful, and I smile. People should smile more. I just do it because I’m lazy – it takes fewer muscles than frowning. If you can take a couple minutes out of your day to have some fun, why not?

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Why am I still here? That’s a good question. I’ve worked here for over ten years now and here’s the answer that keeps coming to me: We’re not done yet.

We’re not done treating people the way they should be treated, and we’re not done finding more ways to have that practice spread out from here. When this place started, we talked a lot about living by example. Everything spreads word of mouth. Our books were open, and anyone could come and look at them to see how we started, and what it takes to keep going. The idea is still true: the only way to keep this thing going is to give it away. Giving one thing away for free each day to a guest who isn’t expecting it is just one simple example of that. I try to give something away – even just a small thing – and it can have a big impact. Sometimes the response is surprising, like they misheard me, or like I’m throwing some gimmick at them, or maybe I don’t really work here. Then their faces light up. I love that. This kind of change can seem slow sometimes, and I get impatient, thinking maybe there’s a faster way. But I remind myself, we did not build what’s here and make this mess in one day. It does work.


You can also tell we’re not done yet just looking around at all the waste in this country. There are still large cities that are just starting their recycling programs. In developing countries, they save as much as they can. I remember seeing Alfredo. He was staring with a glassy look in his eyes at our full dumpster. When I asked him if he was ok, he said: “In my country, you would be a king with this.” I think about that a lot.

I’d hate to see us get run out of the neighborhood. Change is happening here and I’d like to see us adapt and still play a role. And honestly, I don’t think our roll has changed much in this community. I think we’re still relevant here. Even the rats are showing up more.

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Money shouldn’t – and it doesn’t – really drive us. I’m not here for the money. I’m just grateful that I can continue on. What really matters in life? Your family. Your friends. How we treat each other. If you only have 24 hours to live, you’re not going to spend it gambling in a casino. You’re going to spend it with your family and friends around you.

The crew that we have now is exceptional. These are good people here and I’m honored to be working with them. Some of us have our limitations, others pick up the slack. No one complains. We just help each other. In the middle of the day I don’t think about it, but when I get home and reflect, I’m amazed at what we’ve built here. Everyone has their idea of their fantasy workplace, where there’s respect, where everyone gets along, and where it feels like a family.

Why am I still here? Because here we’ve actually created it.

3 Stories of Little Free Libraries

A "little free library" is based on the concept of a take-a-book, return-a-book free exchange. The libraries come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box supported chest high by a wooden post, and filled with books. They are usually placed in someone’s front yard in a residential neighborhood, with easy access by anyone passing by. The ReBuilding Center is a popular place for gathering building materials for constructing little libraries. Here are three examples.

Girl Scouts


Exactly one year ago, we featured an article “Girl Scouts' Little Libraries” describing Troop 45642’s design and construction of two little libraries destined to be located in the girls’ neighborhoods.  It was important for the girls that the boxes were built with repurposed wood, which they got from the ReBuilding Center. They could have asked their parents for “prebuilt” box kits that average around $250 a piece from the Little Free Library webpage. Instead, they searched through the ReBuilding Center store for materials like boards, glass, cupboard doors, hinges, and roof shingles, and, when finished, used these materials to reimagine designs for their own little library structures.

Building little libraries has a natural appeal for reuse-lovers, and the ReBuilding Center is a logical resource. Two recent examples that utilized RBC's cornucopia of recycled materials include: a structure coordinated by Jeff Azerrad and built by third grade students from Abernathy Elementary School in Inner Southeast Portland; and another from an individual, Bob Staab, for his front yard in Vancouver, Washington.

Jeff Azerrad


Jeff, a parent of one of the third graders in the class, explained that the tiny library was built by the 24 students and four volunteers of Liza Springgate’s third grade class. The beautiful end product was used as an item to be bid on at a fundraising auction for the school. Auction items are donated from local businesses and individuals, and in addition, each class creates their own original art project.   

Jeff explained: “literacy and a lifelong love of reading is an important value to our community, so building a free library made a lot of sense to us as a project for our auction.” Jeff and the third grade class chose to use reclaimed materials very consciously: ”[We] feel strongly about using reclaimed materials. The reason for me,” Jeff states, “is pretty simple … our society wastes too much and I personally try to do whatever I can to reduce my family's environmental footprint. So this is one way I can do that. Aesthetically I also think using reclaimed materials give handicrafts and art a more interesting look.”

From the ReBuilding Center the class chose to use cedar planks for the walls and floor, reclaimed tin for the roof, and a small window for the door.  The children designed their tiny library to look like a little house with a shiny roof.  They decorated the walls with pressed copper etchings celebrating the importance of reading. 

Bob Staab

The idea of creating a tiny library for his neighborhood in Vancouver actually originated with Bob’s wife, Sylva, a long time library supporter in all of the cities they have lived in.  Having seen tiny libraries in other communities and cities, they felt their corner lot was a natural site for it, giving easy access for the many walkers and children living in their neighborhood.  They deliberately put books for adults and children into the library to encourage cross generational use. 


Bob stated that he “enjoyed going through various areas in the ReBuilding Center.” He complimented all the staff as being "very helpful" and appreciated the loan of measuring tapes and saws to cut the cedar siding that he’d selected. He decided to fashion a picture frame into a door on his structure. By replacing the picture inside the frame with clear plexi-glass he was able to fashion an attractive, see-through door.

What will you (re)build?

RBC Intern Promotes Reuse Culture Abroad

"Working at the ReBuilding Center was my most precious experience in the creative city of Portland!"

There seems to be a cultural connection between Japan and Portland demonstrated by all the interest from visitors, interns, and writers that visit the center on a continual basis. The ReBuilding Center was happy to provide resources and education about our nonprofit model when the only other ReBuilding Center location was launched last year in Suwa City, Nagano prefecture in Japan. Tomona arrived at the ReBuilding Center in July of 2017 from Japan. She heard about us while visiting the ReBuilding Center Japan and got in touch with Dave Lowe, the Volunteer Services Manager at the ReBuilding Center in Portland, about the possibility of an internship.


While attending the Portland English Language Academy for the subsequent six months, she lent her talents in design and carpentry as an intern at the ReBuilding Center. Her first project was to re-design all of our in-store creative reuse flyers that highlight projects that can be done using items commonly found in the store. She also built a number of "prototype" examples of projects that can be used to displayed around the store and at community events. Her goal was to improve her English language skills while immersing herself in the creative and resourceful culture of Portland in a way that utilized her skill sets.

" While working at the ReBuilding Center, I created some reuse examples working with salvaged materials, and redesigning two templates of a 'Creative ReUse Library' binder. I also created a step-by-step guide on how to modify these templates. I hope it will be helpful for future interns.
I really appreciate how the ReBuilding Center team members welcomed and supported me. Even though I was an amateur DIY'er, they allowed me to freely express creative reuse! "
- Tomona, RBC Intern

I hope to raise awareness about Creative ReUse and let people know that it is not difficult. You can do it because I did it as well! 

Since leaving Portland, Tomona is back in Japan and is gearing up for a one-month internship with the ReBuilding Center Japan in Suwa, Nagano where she will share what she learned here at our organization in Portland, Oregon, with the goal to help promote a reuse culture abroad! Our team is so grateful Tomona's interest in supporting our work to build community through reuse and sharing it with others!

Ismaili Volunteers lend a hand to build a better society during MLK Day of Service


On the MLK Day of Service, the ReBuilding Center played host to to a Ismaili volunteer group of ethnically and culturally diverse peoples living in over 25 countries around the world.  We learned a bit about how volunteering and community service are a key Ismaili ethic and are actively encouraged. Hence they have made wide-ranging contributions to the civic life of the communities in which they reside, including education, healthcare, economic development, culture, youth development, and sports. We asked them about their experience with the ReBuilding Center volunteer event, how the Ismailis operate, and their commitment to community service!

How are the local Ismailis organized? Who’s in charge and how do they get the word out?

The Ismaili Muslims in Portland have been gathering together for the past several years.  Recently, the population of Ismailis has grown enough to establish an official community center where individuals and families can congregate, socialize, and participate in service-related activities. Though we do have local congregation leaders, individual members serve in other capacities in Portland, as well as the entire western USA, and the nation as a whole. They may be involved in educational programs for our youth, health advice, financial planning seminars, etc. When events are being organized, the local members meet at our center as well as through social media.

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Asad said to Dave

“this was one of the best events we have volunteered for.”


What made it so great for you and your team?

The de-nailing activity was great because it provided an active hands-on experience. Improving the quality of life of others is an ethic of our faith, and this event really helped us see the impact of our efforts. Moreover, the event was held outdoors, and the beautiful Portland weather in the morning added to the fun.


What other volunteer work have the Ismailis done in Portland?

We have participated in many volunteering events in Portland over the past three years.  Our longest standing partnership is with the Oregon Food Bank, where we regularly send volunteers to pack and organize food.  Our group has also attended one of the biggest events in the city of Portland: the Portland Walk to End Alzheimer’s, where we planted gardens, served on the “thank you brigade,” and assisted with tear-down and clean-up.. The team was present at the “Put Down Roots in Tualatin” event, and assembled packages of trail mix for the needy as well.

Do the Ismailis get together in Portland on a regular basis? Do the Ismailis have a physical Center in Portland?  If not, where do you meet?

Yes, we get together three times a week and we have a place in Northwest Portland where we meet.

We read that the Ismailis are “culturally and ethnically diverse.”  What does this mean exactly? Does that apply to those in the Portland area?

Yes, the Ismailis are a group made up of individuals from all over the world. Many of the individuals in Portland immigrated from countries such as India, Pakistan, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Tanzania, while many others were born in the USA. This melting pot enables the sharing of cultures, cuisines, language, and history, and makes us stronger.

How did you hear about Hands on Greater Portland? What made you choose the ReBuilding Center opportunity?

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Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering (I-CERV) is a group of volunteers that are involved with volunteering activities at least once a month across different cities in the United States of America.  As a lead for those events for Portland, my role is to identify events that volunteers ranging from age 7 to 70+ can enjoy, while contributing and giving back to society.  I came across the Hands on Greater Portland website during this research, and decided to keep an eye out for activities. The ReBuilding Center’s statement caught my attention: “Community is at the heart of our mission, materials are the means,” which is aligned with our own goals.  We aim to improve the quality of life of individuals and the communities in which they live.  The activities the ReBuilding Center promoted sounded engaging and fun, and sure enough, I was proven right!

What was your favorite part about the volunteer experience with the ReBuilding Center? What did you learn?

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I got to learn about how decade-old logs of wood were being put to use by the ReBuilding Center. I really enjoyed Dave’s explanation of the seasonal growth of wood, and the patterns which develop on it as a result.

ReBuilding Center 2017 in Review: Building Community Together

One of the most inspiring aspects of the ReBuilding Center is being surrounded by a community of doers. In our Store, there’s a constant flow of neighbors dropping off materials and shopping for salvaged treasures. In our ReFind classes, a fresh crop of DIY students roll up their sleeves each week to learn new carpentry and home repair skills. In surrounding neighborhoods, our free pick-up drivers and DeConstruction crews team up with residents to make sure building materials are salvaged and reused instead of demolished and sent to landfills. Across the city, community-building projects keep sprouting up, from cultural pop-up markets in our Commons area to solar-powered tiny houses in Dignity Village.

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With so much in motion, it’s easy to be excited about what’s next. Before the sawdust settles on 2017, let’s take a moment to reflect on what we built together in 2017.

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In our ReBuilding Center Store, and together with Portland’s thriving reuse community, we found homes for millions of pounds of building materials, and made materials donations to over 200 community projects, with a special focus on contributing to the construction and repair of villages for community members experiencing houselessness. New leadership on the Driving team helped expand our free pick-up outreach into Portland’s neighborhoods, and prevent everything from vintage and modern appliances to full kitchen cabinet sets from going to the landfill.

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Our DeConstruction teams took apart and salvaged up to 85% of the materials from 25 whole houses and 10 garages in 2017 – structures and materials that otherwise would have been demolished and sent to the landfill. Our team of Deconstructionists, Salvage Specialists, and Drivers was honored with a national award from the Building Materials Reuse Association in recognition of our contribution to the national and local conversation and action around deconstruction, salvage, and reuse.

The ways we serve the community are as diverse as the community we aim to serve. The common thread that runs through? We leverage our space, people, materials, and resources to support community-owned actions for a more sustainable and equitable Portland. 2017 brought changes, challenges, and tremendous growth to the ReBuilding Center:

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  • We engaged over 3,200 – a record-high number - of volunteers in Store, ReFind Classes, marketing, de-nailing, and administrative activities.
  • We organized and executed “Day of Service 2017,” providing home repairs for 15 neighbors.
  • We responded to sold-out classes in our ReFind Shop by offering even more hands-on learning experiences for adults and kids on how to safely and creatively work with building materials. Our Education program was awarded “Best New Program” by the Association of Oregon Recyclers.
  • We hosted a two-day Black Friday Market in partnership with Right2Root, where 13 entrepreneurs of color made average sales of approximately $250.
  • We helped three grassroots projects get off the ground: Mudbone Grown, Play Grow Learn, and Right2Root. We also helped three new community projects launch: Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, Alliyah Sells Books, and Boise-Eliot Grove.
  • We launched “ReBuilding Center Road,” a creative reuse theme park as part of Alberta Last Thursday events in June, July, and August.
  • Grant- and donation-based revenue doubled in 2017, and will continue to provide support for community-building initiatives in the year to come.

Thanks to our passionate staff, dedicated volunteers, hard-working board members, and wonderful supporters like you, we have been able to build this place into something so special and impactful in the community that when you mention the ReBuilding Center, the inevitable response is “I love that place!”


As we celebrate our 20th year, we are honored to have your support and participation. We invite you to join us as we explore ways to tell the story of how the ReBuilding Center is building community through reuse and engage community members in becoming a part of that story so we can build a more inclusive and sustainable future for our community together!

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Alison Dennis
Interim Executive Director

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Portland Embraces the Free Sharing Economy

Companies such as Lyft, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit have revolutionized the service economy by connecting individuals to one another to share resources that may have otherwise been underutilized and thus undervalued. Arun Sundararajan, a marketing professor at NYU and author of the 2016 book “The Sharing Economy”, describes this new economic model as “crowd-based capitalism.”  In this model, economic activity occurs peer-to-peer, as opposed to being mediated by corporate systems.  Crowd-based capitalism allows an individual or community to optimize its resources by renting them out to others when they are not in use.  In Portland, the sharing-economy now includes free resources. That’s right, free!  All across Portland, local groups are leveraging the principles of the sharing economy to provide people with anything from power tools to board games and beyond.

 Photo courtesy of Northeast Portland Tool Library

Photo courtesy of Northeast Portland Tool Library

Local resources and Lending Libraries

The ReBuilding Center in Portland has also embraced the free sharing economy through events it hosts like Fix-It-Fairs where folks can come and get their small appliances, bikes, garments and other items fixed for free. They also lists some of Portland's local “Lending Libraries” on their website

Lending Libraries are small community hubs across Portland that have a variety of tools and project materials available for rent, free of charge.  Think construction, auto repair, home improvement, and gardening.  Some Lending Libraries are standalone buildings, while others are located inside churches or community centers. Most of them rent to individuals, while some, such as Portland Community Tool Bank, specialize in renting to not-for-profit organizations.  Lending Libraries are predominately run by volunteers and sustained through individual and corporate donations as well as grants. 

Hillsboro Public Library's "Library of Things"

Libraries have embraced the free sharing economy for centuries, and it is only fitting that a local library would become a hub for free sharing of all sorts of goods.  The “Library of Things” is a project run by the Hillsboro Public Library that offers an eclectic array of items for rent to anyone with a library card.  The collection began with a donation of cake pans and has since grown to include rarely used, but occasionally coveted, items such as a cotton candy machine or telescope.  The Library of Things includes board games, musical instruments, and a variety of home and event equipment.  You can borrow from the Library of Things with a Washington County library card (which you can apply for with a Multnomah County card).  You can also contribute to the Library of Things by simply donating new or gently used items that other people could enjoy using. The collection provides the physical tools patrons need to explore new interests and learn new skills and are essentially “checking out an experience.” It’s so popular that it doesn’t even require much space for storage, because so many items are on loan at any given time.

 Photo courtesy of Portland Community Tool Bank

Photo courtesy of Portland Community Tool Bank

Sharing is Caring

By using local Lending Libraries you can embody the ReBuilding Center’s mission to build community through reuse.  By sharing tools and materials within a community we are creating sustainable and accessible resources that empower individuals and organizations to repair homes, construct community gardens, and simply get work done affordably. 

Most of us are so used to having our own everything, we don’t yet see anything peculiar about having drawers and cupboards and closets full of items that rarely see the light of day. These Lending Libraries allow patrons to practice the first “R” of conservation—reducing—by making it easy to borrow. Like the ReBuilding Center, they are community resources that help people increase their skills while lowering their environmental footprint.

Find Your Nearest Tool Library

Name a tool that you need for home repairs and gardening, and you will find it at one of the local tool libraries near your home. For example, check out the Southeast Portland Tool Library at 1137 SE 20th Avenue.  Check out their website to see an array of hand tools—just like what you would find at a retail seller like Home Depot except they are free to use!  They all appear new and/or well taken care of.

Another location farther south on the east side is the Green Lents Community Tool Library and is a great resource for those who speak Spanish.  It has an excellent website and is located at 9215 SE Ramona Street. 

In the northeast sector of the city, we find the Northeast Portland Tool Library located in the Leaven Community Center/Salt and Light Lutheran Church.  It prefers residents that live in the northeast or west of 82ndIts goal is to offer "residents of all income levels access to tools to empower them to build and maintain a sustainable, thriving community."

And, those people living in the Kenton area can go to the Old Kenton Firehouse basement at 2209 N Schofield Street where they will find the North Portland Tool Library

One of these tool library services may be just right for you. To see a list of Lending Libraries in Portland, check out the ReBuilding Center’s resource page or consult the list below! We wish you good building!

Green Lents Community Tool Library
9215 SE Ramona Street, Portland 97266

Kitchen Share
2800 SE Harrison & 5431 NE 20th Ave

North East Portland Tool Library
5431 NE 20th Ave.

North Portland Tool Library
Old Kenton Firehouse (Basement)
2209 N. Schofield St.

Portland Community Tool Bank
6424 NE 59th Place

South East Portland Tool Library
2800 SE Harrison St.

Swap & Play - St Johns
7535 N Chicago St.

Swap & Play - Woodlawn
704 NE Dekum St.

Swap Positive
Multiple Locations

Yard Sharing
Multiple Locations

Students Continue to Bring Practical Solutions to Urban Village Issues

Something Rebuilding Center readers should be aware of is the brilliant student-led work being done to help provide creative solutions to our housing crisis. The group have earned national recognition by qualifying for robotics competitions, such as the FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) Robotics Competition.  It is these students who came up with the idea of the JuiceBox that we've reported on in previous blog articles.  This group of innovators are composed of upper grade students, led by educators and leaders with a strong interest in applied technology.  This project has allowed the students to address a variety of social problems faced by the tiny house villages for the houseless communities scattered throughout the city.

After conceptualizing and creating the JuiceBox idea (a solar powered energy box that brings energy and light to the houseless), they identified personal hygiene as another important need. Without access to hot water and washing facilities, residents of the tiny houses cannot keep themselves and their clothes clean. Two solutions have been built by the "Flaming Chickens" (Caitlin Gabel's team name):

The WashPod

 Plumbing pipes for the WashPod.

Plumbing pipes for the WashPod.

There is currently a WashPod, complete with a clothes washer and dryer installed at Right to Dream Too (R2D2).  The WashPod is completely off the grid, meaning it is not on the electrical power system of the city. The “gray water,” or wastewater discharged from showers and bathtubs, sinks and, laundry machines, feeds into a custom built filtration system creating purified waste water that feeds an on-site hydroponics garden, providing sustainably sourced food to the WashPod's community.



The ShowerPod

 A ShowerPod ready to be delivered.

A ShowerPod ready to be delivered.

The ShowerPod is a hybrid shower system engineered to pump, filter, and heat water while running an exhaust fan and lights on the interior of the ShowerPod.  (The solar panels are purchased from Grape Solar in Eugene, Oregon and use high-efficiency instant propane water heaters “to help ShowerPods function reliably and efficiently.”)

One ShowerPod is currently located at Hazelnut Grove, a village of houseless individuals in North Portland.  Some of the residents are partnering with the students to refine, and build more ShowerPods!

We contacted Solomon Oshin, a student knowledgeable in every aspect of these exciting projects.  He kindly answered the following questions, further clarifying some of the exciting details:

Do the WashPod and ShowerPod need to be hooked up to a water source on site?

WashPods  get water from a variety of places. It has the ability to get water from a hose spigot, rainwater collection barrels, or even a rooftop rain collection system that is still in development.


Will more WashPods/ShowerPods be constructed?

Yes! The WashPod being installed soon at Right 2 Dream Too is a prototype designed by the Catlin Gabel School’s Community Engineering Team, part of the high school’s Team 1540 Robotics program. 

WashPod will become a Shine Project when the first prototype is completed, and more will be constructed by Shine in the near future!

Where have you located the WashPods/ShowerPods?

 Transporting a WashPod.

Transporting a WashPod.

The first prototype is being installed soon at Right 2 Dream Too (R2D2). Our proof of concept, the smaller, less powerful, less feature-packed ShowerPod is currently installed at Hazelnut Grove. 

Do you have any feedback from any people using the WashPods/ShowerPods?

People love having the ability to feel clean! Our ShowerPod users have been giving us feedback on how we can improve the design of our showers (for example: WashPod #1 has a shower nearly double the size of ShowerPod’s). We are also working closely with R2D2 to make sure that we meet their needs with our prototype. 


Are there showers in the WashPod, or just washers and dryers?

 Controls for propane water heater.

Controls for propane water heater.

We are equipping the first WashPod with a washing machine, commercial dryer, sink, and extra wide shower with a separate dressing/changing room. This will allow up to four people to use the WashPod’s services simultaneously. 

Thank you Solomon for answering our questions and to the group of Catlin Gabel students that continue to look for innovative solutions to create a more equitable Portland.

For more details, check out the following link:

From Seoul to Portland: a RBC Intern's Experience Abroad


By Jieun Lim

It was the first day of the year and my first day in Portland. Even with snow on the ground, my first impression of chilly Portland was more than I had expected. I would like to tell you about my experience in this fantastic city in Oregon that has turned out to be more than I could have ever dreamed of!


On that first day, I said to myself, "I've started my new life on the first day of 2017 in Portland!"

I wanted to travel to Portland from my home in Seoul, South Korea to study English and I also really wanted to know more about the awesome, eccentric Portlanders that I had heard of. "What's cool in Portland?" "How different is Portland from South Korea?"

The more I learned about Portland, the more I became fascinated with the city. From trying all the amazing food and coffee; to just wandering in the cool rain; to getting a beer at sunset; all these things were so pleasant to me! I'm also inspired by the unrestrained talents of local artists who provide valuable motivation for me as I pursue my dream to become an accomplished art educator. 


My work at the ReBuilding Center in North Portland has been one of my favorite experiences!

My work at the ReBuilding Center in North Portland has been one of my favorite experiences! I've been volunteering at the ReBuilding Center since October. I've been helping Ashley, a wonderful manager in marketing department, help publish several newsletters for the organization. In addition, I've been working in the ReFind Education Shop, building with salvaged lumber. My experience volunteering here has inspired me to explore more interesting and creative ways to educate children on art and how to make the world better place at the same time!

Recently, the ReBuilding Center received their copy of a Korean magazine, OH BOY!, a publication that focuses on a range of different topics, such as environmentalism, animal rights, fashion, and culture. In a special once-a-year issue, the Korean magazine focuses on one international city and this year their focus happened to be on Portland! From Seoul to Mississippi Avenue, the crew came and interviewed Ashley Howe, the Marketing & Communications Manager, about the ReBuilding Center. I've been asked to translate the article and I'm happy to do so! Here is a loose translation from the article published in 2017:


"더 나은 사회를 위한 재활용 자재의 천국"

“Paradise of Recycling ResourcesFor Better Place”

The Rebuilding Center, located in Mississippi Avenue, is a “treasure house” for people in Portland who need lots of different kinds of materials to reconstruct their houses or repair things. When walking into the center, you might be impressed with its diverse building and recycled materials placed along a long path, and you may feel like you are in a material amusement park. The Rebuilding Center is a non-profit organization and offers deconstruction for the local community. The center provides local residents with a platform to buy and donate their used materials. The profits made by the people who make purchases in the store are used to support the community. In other words, the community benefits from the reuse economy by donating their materials. This operation works more efficiently than other non-profit organization because it is different from other traditional operations, mainly relying on donation than subsidy. By gathering 8 tons of materials every day, the Rebuilding Center is operated by over 2,000 volunteers yearly and is able to utilize those materials to build shelters for homeless people. Since last year, the center has supported a community network called the Village Coalition. Furthermore, the Rebuilding Center has collaborated with Portland State University students, so the center and PSU students can work together to build more shelters for homeless people. It also offers hands-on educational programming for youth on how to work with used building materials in an intensive workshop for 3 days. This program can be considered as one part of STEAM, an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM). 

"In My Backyard," a Film Project on the Kenton Women's Tiny House Village

It’s been almost a year since the Kenton neighborhood residents voted more than two-to-one in favor of the Kenton Women’s Village, the first city-ordained homeless encampment in Oregon. Fourteen formerly houseless women, ranging in age from their 20s to 60s, now each live in a 8'x12' sleeping pod. The pods were designed and built as part of the POD (Partners on Dwelling) Initiative, a citywide coalition of architects, housing advocates, and houseless individuals, with many of the materials supplied by the ReBuilding Center. The village has felt more and more like home with the addition of a fully operational kitchen and shower facilities, and a community garden where residents and neighbors can gather and collaborate.

 Photo credit: Portland State University

Photo credit: Portland State University

 Photo credit: Zach Putnam

Photo credit: Zach Putnam

One of the neighbors drawn to this historic project was filmmaker Zach Putnam. He has documented the impact of the village in two short videos: one a profile of a resident (who has since moved into her own apartment); the other an overview of the origins of the project. You can view both of them below. He also included writing, still photos, and a 360-degree virtual tour of the village in his multimedia project, entitled In My Backyard. We asked Zach about his inspiration for getting involved in Kenton Women’s Village. 

What drew you to filmmaking as an art form originally?

My grandfather gave me my first video camera in middle school, a Sony Hi-8 Handycam. Soon I started talking my teachers into letting me make videos instead of writing papers and I've basically been working that scam ever since. I fell in love with nonfiction storytelling, and the art and adventure of documentary filmmaking. Now I primarily produce short documentary-style videos to help nonprofit organizations tell their best stories (and raise more funds).

What was your first thought when you heard about the Kenton Women’s Village?

My first thought was, "That sounds interesting, but how would it work?" I saw my neighbors on social media asking similar questions, in various ways, so I set out to try to answer them for myself and for my neighbors.

How did you get involved?

I follow the Kenton Neighborhood Association online and the village site is right down the street from my house, so I tracked developments closely on social media from the beginning. I actually was working as a graduate teaching fellow at the University of Oregon in Eugene over the winter/spring, so I missed all of the neighborhood meetings about the proposal and the vote. When I was back in Portland for the summer, I needed a storytelling project to complete my master's program at the school of journalism, so I decided to document the story of the women's village as it was built.

What was your favorite moment during the shooting of the videos?

Being invited in by the amazing Jewell Ramirez to spend time with her in her house in the village and hear her incredible story was a humbling honor. I could make a full-length film just about Jewell. Her story is surprising and heartbreaking, and I think it's so important to give houseless folks an opportunity to tell their stories. It can remind us all that these are our human neighbors we are talking about when we debate these issues. 

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Do you have any observations about the collaborative effort that was central to this project?

I was astonished at how complex the collaboration was. Between the neighborhood association, the city, the county, PSU, the Village Coalition, Catholic Charities, the ReBuilding Center, architecture firms, and so many other organizations and activists involved, it's a bona fide miracle that everything came together as smoothly as it did. That's a big part of why I thought it was so important to document this project, to show other communities, "Look, we figured out how to work together on this problem." It gives me hope for humans as a collaborative species.

ReBuilding Center staff hard at work moving the tiny houses, sometimes late into the night, from our temp site (where they were stored before moving) to the Kenton site.

What was your experience with the ReBuilding Center?

When the tiny houses were being transported from a storage lot to the Kenton location, I wanted to capture the move on video. I was hoping to set up a time-lapse camera to capture the pods arriving, but I was having trouble finding out exactly when the move would actually happen. Then I met Tom Patzkowksi, the ace driver and forklift operator in charge of the big move for the RBC. Tom became my man on the inside, and he provided me with up-to-the-minute info so I could be ready to roll when the time was right. I soon learned that Tom works some long and crazy days and my camera batteries couldn't last as long as he did, but I got some great shots of him helping to transform that empty gravel lot into a homey village.

Do you have any personal experience with houselessness?

I'm very privileged in that I have never experienced houselessness myself, which is all the more reason I feel like I need to give back and help people who are living through that. I think being unable to provide housing to all those who need it is shameful for a country that is as prosperous as ours. I've volunteered at shelters in the past, and I've produced many videos for homeless service organizations including the Clackamas Service Center and Portland Homeless Family Solutions, so I am familiar with many of the issues and some members of my local houseless community.

Are you still involved directly with Kenton Women’s Village or any of the residents?

I walk or drive past the village almost every day, but I'm not working there directly right now. I've since been hired by Catholic Charities to produce some videos about the village and some of their other housing programs, so I might be visiting again soon. 

Do you see any advantages to an encampment like the village over traditional shelters?

In the first short video, I think Jewell Ramirez and Desiree Rose do a better job answering that question then I ever could.

Since this project was approved as a one-year pilot, do you know what will happen to the camp and the pods when that ends?

I don't know what the latest is on the status of the pilot project or the lot in Kenton, but I know that the village was always designed to be movable. Everything from the tiny houses to the custom kitchen and bathrooms could be put on a truck and moved to a new location. My understanding is that if the Kenton lot is no longer available and the village is to continue operating, the city will find another lot to move everything to. I'm sure there will be some wrinkles in the execution of that simple-sounding plan, but that is the idea.

Ideally, what happens next with your videos of the project?

I wanted to document this project to help my neighbors understand what happened here, and also to help other neighborhoods understand how something like this might work in their communities. Income inequality and the many societal symptoms of that are going to get worse before they get better, so we all need to be thinking about innovative solutions to housing, hunger, mental health and more. My hope is that this story will be shared widely and help other neighborhoods think about trying out and hopefully improving on this village idea.

Check out Zach Putnam's full project, "In My Backyard," on his website here >

ReBuilding Center Gift Guide

Are you looking for gift ideas? Is someone you know interested in building, DIY, or have a passion for sustainability or community building? This holiday season, get your special someone a gift that will keep giving, something that promotes reuse and self-sufficiency. Instead of buying new things that take more energy and resources to create, help divert materials from the waste stream with gift certificates to the ReBuilding Center Store and ReFind Education Program, or use reclaimed materials to create a handmade gift!



The ReBuilding Center offers gift certificates for all your building, crafting, and creative needs. Whether your special person needs old-growth lumber, hardware, a vintage door, or seating salvaged from an old Portland Theater, RBC has a large and ever-changing stock of Pacific Northwest history. Available for any amount $5+. Stop in the store on N. Mississippi Avenue today to get yours!

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ReFind Classes Gift Certificate

The ReBuilding Center offers classes like "Intro to Carpentry for Women: Tables & Benches," "Intro to Electrical for Homeowners," and "Tablesaw Bootcamp," providing hands-on building skills on how to safely and creatively work with used building materials. Certificates range from $30-$100 depending on the class. For a full list of available classes check out our website.

Or get crafty and make your own presents this year

Here are some creative reuse ideas utilizing salvaged building materials you can find at the ReBuilding Center:

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Door Tree Hall Bench

Photo credit: LG Custom Woodworking


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Reclaimed Wood Boxshelf

Photo credit: ReclaimedTrends

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Shutter Bookshelf

Photo credit: SweetiesAttic 

"I Work To Feel That I Belong," Words of a Day Laborer

For many, “work” is simply a place to go and spend one’s time in exchange for their livelihood (read: money to pay the rent). We go, we put in some effort, and we receive payment. And that is completely fine. But for others, including many here at the ReBuilding Center, I am certain that “work” carries a deeper value.
And we're certainly not alone. Recently, a worker-led organization in Portland, “VOZ," partnered with local artist Patricia Vázquezto paint a mural on one of the Rebuilding Center’s street-facing walls. Another local artist, Thea Gahr, created the artwork. Maybe you’ve seen, walking by our front donation area, a beautiful black and white mural of a man working and the words: “I work to feel that I belong.”

A simple statement to some, perhaps but a brief moment standing before the mural is all you need to realize its artful message of belief, determination, and grit. 

The mural was created in collaboration with Voz Workers' Rights Education Project and MLK Workers Center, an organization that empowers diverse day laborers and immigrants to improve their working conditions. One of those day laborers is José González. He is the man in the mural and the quotation above him is his own. 

Patricia Vázquez, who organized this project, explained to us that Voz connects hundreds of workers each month with local employers, and that it’s “critical to the day labor movement in Oregon [because it] offers a safe space for workers to build community, participate in trainings that increase employability, and organize themselves towards ending exploitation, discrimination and wage theft.”

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Many of the workers at the Voz MLK Workers Center, like José, take pride in their abilities to paint. Therefore, as Patricia explained, it made sense to paint murals to depict the lives and realities of real day-laborers.

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Patricia and the team felt it was appropriate to partner with the ReBuilding Center on this mural because many who come to purchase materials are contractors and many contractors rely on the skill and experience of day laborers. She felt that the ReBuilding Center and Voz were two organizations with related missions and that this project would be a great collaboration. We couldn’t agree more.

On the right-hand side of the mural of José is a short biography about his life. It shares about the skills he’s attained while working as a day laborer in Oregon over the past fifteen years. Beneath that it talks about why painting as an art form is so important to him. Without putting words in his mouth, I wonder if for José, “work” here could refer to his paintings as much as it could his day-laboring. If so, then “I work to feel that I belong” carries a whole new meaning. Work becomes about contributing to something bigger, about skill, mastery, and passion, and about one’s own community. 

Volunteers needed for Inventory Shifts & Pizza Party!

Sign up to help out with ReBuilding Center's 2nd Annual INVENTORY!

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Rummage through 53,000 square feet of Portland history while we treat you to coffee, donuts, and the best of Mo-Town. Pizza will be brought in for lunch—be sure to let us know of any dietary needs so we can be sure to feed you right!


There are morning, afternoon, and all-day shifts available!

If you would like to volunteer to help us with inventory you can sign up by:

  1. Signing in through your volunteer portal to get on the roster. >
  2. Or emailing Dave Lowe, Volunteer Services Manager, at >

Shifts available: 

January 1st, 2018
Prep Shift:

Team up with our management staff to tag all the areas of the store, put some chalk markings on the floor, prepare clipboards, and all the fun things. We know it's a holiday, which is why the pizza will be extra tasty for this shift.

January 2nd, 2018   
10am-2pm; 2-6pm; OR 10am-6pm
Counter Shift:

Exactly what it sounds like. Count the things, write down a number, and voila!

January 2nd, 2018
9:30am - 1:30pm; 1:30pm - 5:30pm
Area lead Shift:

You'll be assigned to an area of the ReBuilding Center to make sure everyone has enough inventory sheets, helpers, good vibes, etc. You'll also help with getting the food for the day from our local vendors. You'll make sure that any completed inventory sheets make their way to "Inventory HQ"!

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All shifts take place at the ReBuilding Center at 3625 N Mississippi Ave.

Meet the ReBuilding Center's New Interim Executive Director, Alison Dennis

The ReBuilding Center is excited to announce Alison Dennis as our new interim Executive Director. Alison has worked to help numerous organizations, teams, and individuals realize their missions and achieve their goals. She has done this serving as an interim executive director, consultant, or as a teacher at colleges and universities. Her focus on strategy, leadership, and collective action makes her a wonderful fit for this position. She is a graduate of Bennington College and holds an MBA from Portland State University.


So what was the ReBuilding Center looking for in their new executive director? Kelly Stevens, the Administrative Services Manager at the ReBuilding Center, says some of the characteristics were "a demonstrated passion for our mission, a deep commitment to transparency, a collaborative leader with a record of success in nonprofit and business sectors, a willingness to learn from everyone, the ability to connect and communicate with a broad and diverse spectrum of people, and someone who can be very focused on our work but not be afraid to have a ton of fun with the team while doing it!” She also remarked, “Alison brings a wealth of care, nonprofit experience, and business savvy to the interim ED position, with a passion for work that has a social and environmental impact.” 

Alison herself has stated “I’ll be, in as many ways as I can, helping everyone who is a part of the ReBuilding Center ask and answer questions in a collective and collaborative way.” Her mission is clear and she is very optimistic, “everyone within this community has been so warm and welcoming. Not only that but they are also a community of doers, people who not only talk about change but also roll up their sleeves and get things done and I’m excited be working alongside new colleagues that are doers."

A little fun stuff about Alison: In 2004, she and her husband eloped and took a year off to travel, visiting 27 countries across six continents in 365 days. (Her engagement ring was an onion ring.) Alison ran and finished her 12th Portland Marathon this past October, and loves how it feels when thousands of people all run in the same direction together at the same time. She also loves visiting her parents in Ashland, Oregon, where she likes watching horror movies with her dad and seeing as many plays as she can each season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Alison has lived in North Portland’s Arbor Lodge neighborhood since 1995.

Students Expand Juice Box Project to Bring Even More Light & Power to the Houseless


We reported back in March on the "Juice Box Project,” a student-led effort from Catlin Gabel School to provide light and power to the interiors of the tiny houses that have recently been created to help accommodate Portland’s houseless population.  New tiny house clusters are being developed as alternatives to the tent camp model exemplified by the R2D2 (Right to Dream Too), formerly located off Burnside at the entrance to Chinatown. Tiny houses afford the residents more agency and the Juice Box Project aims to help them claim even more self-sufficiency.

What do Juice boxes do?

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The ReBuilding Center has played host to work parties as well as materials to build the Juice Boxes which are rectangular, gray metal unit containing two large LED lights, a USB plug, and a charging outlet. They are powered by heavy-duty batteries that get charged by solar panels on the outside of the houses. When fully charged, the battery can run up to four hours per night for seven nights straight!  Andy Olshin, a long-time advocate for houseless and tiny house communities, told us the communities could be net energy producers in the summer! With the sun setting at 4:30 p.m. here in Portland in the winter, the boxes provide light to read by, juice for cell phone to be able to make important phone calls, and electrical charge for small appliances for self-care.

 Photo of students building Juicebox at the ReBuilding Center - photo credit:  Hollywood Star

Photo of students building Juicebox at the ReBuilding Center - photo credit: Hollywood Star

Big Moves Are being Made by High School Students

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To date, expanded efforts from Benson High School and Catlin Gabel School students have brought 70 Juice Boxes to the following houseless encampments: Hazelnut Grove, Dignity Village, Kenton Women’s Village, Bishop Simm’s Houseless Village, and Right 2 Dream Too.  These machines have been fabricated with funding from the Lexus EcoChallenge, Lloyd EcoDistrict, eBay, the ReBuilding Center, and many other supporters and private sponsors. 

Next Steps

The students are aiming to complete 100 Juice Boxes by the end of 2017.  Each Juice Box costs around $350 to build.  To underwrite the cost, the students from the Caitlin School are asking for donations.  Hopefully they will meet their goal and help light up every houseless group. If you would like to help support this project or learn more click the link below:

Decon+Reuse'17: And the Award Goes to...


This year, to the delight of deconstruction and reuse enthusiasts, the Chicago-based nonprofit, Building Materials Reuse Association (BRMA), hosted their annual conference in Portland, Oregon—the first city in the nation to pass a deconstruction ordinance. People from around the globe gathered at the Smith Memorial at Portland State University for the two-day conference with "several presentations [...] relat[ing] to the recent development of a Portland city ordinance requiring deconstruction and salvage of materials during [the] removal of pre-1917 homes" discussing, "the development of the ordinance, the economics of deconstruction in Portland, growth of new deconstruction operations and reuse stores, and BMRA training of contractors and deconstruction workers."

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The ReBuilding Center played host to the opening reception where attendees got to sample our special release Lumber Lager from Stormbreaker Brewing. 


There were eight awards presented at the DeCon+Reuse’17 closing reception at EcoTrust and the ReBuilding Center was proud to receive two of those honors! Read how the BMRA recognizes our team for innovation and equity in the field:

Award for Excellence in Innovation in the Fields of Deconstruction and Building Material Reuse

Doug has led the ReBuilding Center’s Deconstruction Services for the last 9 years.  What is really remarkable is that Doug has done it all essentially by himself. He started at the ReBuilding Center as the Great Recession hit - and as a result, he has been manager, assistant manager, sales manager, and chief  bottle washer almost since the day he was hired. He has built extraordinary relationships across the City and has helped to ease the pathway forward for deconstruction amongst developers who hold Doug in such high regard.  

Award for Advancing Equity in the Field of Deconstruction and Building Materials Reuse

Stephen Reichard and the ReBuilding Center are being recognized for their organizations multi-faceted commitment to creating equity.  Since their beginning nearly 20 years ago, the ReBuilding Center has always been about building community in North and Northeast Portland.  Stephens background in social justice helped the organization double down its commitment to equity and building community

This takes many forms, including:

  • From stuff like making free building materials available to hundreds of community projects each year
  • Recruiting staff and board members that increase the diversity of the ReBuilding Center
  • Providing Organizational support to other grassroots groups:  Such as the Black Williams project and The North/Northeast STEAM Coalition which both benefit African American communities in Portland’s North/Northeast Corridor.   And The Village Coalition which represents Portland’s houseless community, helping them organize to be able to better advocate for safe camps.
  • A short workforce development story:  Stephen saw a need to provide stipends for the deconstruction workforce skills training participants. It was asking a lot for many of the students to take part in a two and a half week class with no paycheck coming in.  Stephen successfully lobbied Metro and Portland PBS to chip in to provide stipends to the students to help out with child care, transportation, and living expenses.  That helped students stay focused on the class and be more successful.

2017 BMRA Awards

2017 BMRA Award for Excellence in Innovation in the Fields of Deconstruction and Building Material Reuse
Der Lovett, Lovett Deconstruction

2017 BMRA Award for Excellence in Innovation in the Fields of Deconstruction and Building Material Reuse
Douglas Lichter, ReBuilding Center 

2017 BMRA Award for Excellence in Building Material Reuse Industry Promotion and Service
Jim Schulman, Alliance for Regional Cooperation

2017 BMRA Award for Excellence in Building Material Reuse Industry Promotion and Service
Shawn Wood, City of Portland, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

2017 BMRA Award for Exceptional Educational, Academic or Training Activities Related to Deconstruction and Building Materials Reuse
Sara Badiali, Reclamation Administration

2017 BMRA Award for Exceptional Educational, Academic or Training Activities Related to Deconstruction and Building Materials Reuse
Dave Bennink, Reuse Consulting

2017 BMRA Award for Advancing Equity in the Field of Deconstruction and Building Materials Reuse
Alisa Kane, City of Portland, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

2017 BMRA Award for Advancing Equity in the Field of Deconstruction and Building Materials Reuse
Stephen Reichard, ReBuilding Center

Finally, an appreciation for Anne Nicklin's 10 years of service to the BMRA was offered as she steps down in the next couple of months from the Executive Director position.

The Dropbox Derby: Overnight Sensation

Move over World Naked Bike Ride; back of the line Pickathon and Bridge Pedal; take a backseat Sunday Parkways. There’s a new sheriff in town. Or at least a new, instant classic Portland street event.

The first – of what must absolutely be – annual DropBox Derby took place on Saturday, September 30 at Lovett Deconstruction. Fourteen teams, four hours, a supply of identical salvage materials to each team, and a vague concept – Bridge House. Throw in a little beer and a little cider and we have the start of what will soon be a Portland event institution.

The brainchild of deconstruction entrepreneur Der Lovett, and former ReBuilding Center employee, Dropox Derby is a one-day design and build competition using salvage materials. Participatants included Team Curry from Owen Gabbert, Siteworks Design-Build, Splintered Fingers from Clarkbuilt, Inc, Team RBC from The ReBuilding Center, Revive Upholstery & Design, Festering Splinters from Salvage Works, Team Silver Fern, Red Rooster Remodeling, Metalwood Salvage, Plan B Salvation, If you build it they will come from deform, Team Compound, Mightier Miter from CarpentryPDX, and Team Decon from Lovett Deconstruction.

The event took place during the Portland ReUse for Societal Transformation: A Week of Neighborhood ReUse.

 The Rebuilding Center Team.  Photo Source

The Rebuilding Center Team. Photo Source

Sponsors included Heiberg Garbage & Recycling, Voodoo Donuts, and Umpqua Bank. Cider Riot served up pints and Aybla served up authentic and delicious Mediterranean cuisine, while the Ukaladies and a Mariachi Band performed. Even though we didn’t take home the win this year, we are thrilled to be part of this event, and excited to try again next year. The first prize went to Team Silver Fern for their inspiring interpretation of a Bridge House, second prize went to Clarkbuilt Splintered Fingers and third to Siteworks.

We spoke with Der at Lovett Deconstruction to see how they felt after the event and where they saw it going in the future:

Whose idea was it to have the derby?   

I had this idea some years back then last year I pitched it to the Lovett Deconstruction team and we decided to make it happen this year. And so we did.

What was your vision for the event?  

My vision was to have a fun event where crafts people got to make cool stuff with reclaimed materials. I kept imagining tons of tiny structures like architectural models, built from beautiful wood that normally gets thrown away.

What was your impression of the day?

I loved the idea and our team loved the idea but we weren't totally sure how people would respond. As it turned out it was quite clear that all participants and spectators loved it just as much as we did.

What were some of the things you felt made the event such a success?

The vibe! The energy! I lost count of the number of times people told me they couldn't believe this event didn't exist already. And of course everyone said “This is so Portland!” The builders, the makers, the carpenters all said they had been looking for something like this. One carpenter said “chefs get to compete all the time and show their creativity. Now at long last we carpenters get an opportunity!

What are your plans for the future?

This is just the beginning. The plan is to host this event each year and for it to become not just an ever present on the Portland Events Calendar but one of the most anticipated events of the year. We learned so much this time round. We are already starting to plan for next year. I think every entrant on Saturday said "sign us up for next year" as did many visitors. We're hoping to see it grow, and for us to build community around it as well as raise money for some well deserving organizations. We raised $2300 on Saturday for Sisters of the Road Cafe.

So it looks like we can expect the Dropbox Derby to be an annual event during PDX Rust's Portland ReUse for Societal Transformation: A Week of Neighborhood ReUse Events. Further information on the events during that week can be found here. For more information on Sisters of the Road Café or how to donate to their cause visit their website.





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