ReBuilding Center in the Media

KBOO Interview

Earlier this summer, ReBuilding Center Salvage Specialist, Mayela Alvarado, spoke with Luna Flores on KBOO Radio. Mayela’s passion for the ReBuilding Center is infectious and although we may be a little biased, listening to her spotlight on the ReBuilding Center is incredibly captivating! You can listen to Mayela’s Interview, starting at -39.20, here.



Visionkeepers TV Series

Towards the beginning of this year, the ReBuilding Center was featured on the Reclaiming and Rebuilding episode of VisionKeepers. The Visionkeepers TV Series documents individuals and organizations across the United States that work with their communities to embrace the possibilities of sustainable living. We are proud to be featured in this episode, alongside other impactful organizations! You can watch the episode here.


ReCap: Community Events

Annual Day of Service

ReBuilding Center staff and volunteers spent Saturday, August 11th, tackling a wide range of minor repair projects for eight North and inner Northeast neighborhood homeowners. As highlighted in August’s newsletter, the ReBuilding Center partners every year with the African American Alliance for Homeownership for our Annual Day of Service.

We had a very enjoyable day working with tools, meeting people in our neighborhood, and building friendships. The ReBuilding Center would like to thank everyone involved in fostering another successful Day of Service!

Dropbox Derby

This Labor Day, staff and volunteers from the ReBuilding Center participated in the second annual Dropbox Derby - a design/build challenge using salvaged materials to raise money for a good cause. Along with 26 other teams full of innovative and unique talent, Valerie Carey, Andy Grummon, Diana Nelson, and Sam Serling-Sutton, had four hours to create a salvaged masterpiece that fit with the theme, “A Seat at the Table.”

The ReBuilding Center team put their creative minds together to construct a table that transforms into a bench. The table/bench was sold during the silent auction to benefit Oregon Tradeswomen and will also be displayed, along with other selected Dropbox Derby pieces, at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Mississippi Avenue Ice Cream Social

Mississippi Avenue was as sweet as it could be this past Tuesday during the 15th Annual Ice Cream Social. Over 24 Mississippi Avenue businesses participated in handing out free ice cream to celebrate our neighborhood and community. The ReBuilding Center kept it classic this year, scooping vanilla bean ice cream for those who stopped by our table under the Community Trees.

A huge thanks to the Historic Mississippi Business Association and everyone who worked hard to make this event happen. We had a blast and hope the Mississippi Avenue community did, too!

Goodbye Letter


Tom Patzkowski is the Operations Director at the ReBuilding Center. After being with the ReBuilding Center for over 19 years, his time working here will come to a close this month. The ReBuilding Center community will dearly miss Tom and his infectious laugh and we wish him the best of luck in his East Coast endeavors.


By: Tom Patzkowski

As my son and I drove a large box truck jammed full of possessions accumulated over decades in Portland across the country toward an unknown future, we noticed faces. Faces in the formations and rocks, in the trees and plants, the waters, and in the sky. Imagining the past lives of the people and animals that are recorded solidly and transitionally in the landscape, we became certain that the marks of all existences swirl in our surroundings. Throughout the local community and well beyond, the reverberations of the innovations, rediscoveries, collaborations, and spirit of the ReBuilding Center boldly exhibit, in a lasting way, that possibilities can become reality when people join together - with effort and compassion - to overcome obstacles and misperceptions.

My personal existence, the growth of my family and me, has been interwoven with the flourishing of the ReBuilding Center. In a world where disagreement is highlighted, it has been fortunate and foundational to enact change, celebrate differences, find commonalities, and build relationships at work – a rare opportunity. I have learned that there is beauty and value and challenge in all interactions and all things. There is earnestness, desire, and dedication needed to bring about a stronger and healthier society grounded in equity and respect for nature.

I think of the astronauts who come back humbled environmentalists from the vastness of space. After distantly gazing at the only observable planet which can support our lives, it is recognized that we are related to and dependent on each other for survival, our time here demands that we preserve and protect each other, and we are part of a wonderfully spinning larger organism: the earth. We are also gifted with individual talents known and to be discovered. I encourage you to engage and explore those gifts to support and serve your co-workers and all people, to take a moment to look around and notice the good you are doing, and to make your mark!

A ReBuilding Center Collaboration with Ann Hamilton: habitus

Currently, a cluster of suspended cloth flows in the wind under the riverfront pavilion at Centennial Mills. This cloth is an element of Ann Hamilton’s habitus – an art installation presented by Converge 45. While movements of the riverfront air set the curtains into motion, they can also be manipulated by rope and pulley. A model of Portland from the 1970’s accompanies the suspended curtains in the center of the installation, while the far end is bound by two long tables displaying commonplace pages, related to home and shelter. All of these habitus pieces can be reflected upon on wooden benches that line the edge of the installation.

The ReBuilding Center was commissioned by Ann Hamilton to build fourteen nine foot benches and two fifty foot display tables for habitus. The goal of this project was to not only use salvaged materials, but to also serve as a training opportunity. Under the guidance and direction of Education staffers Aaron Green and Sam Serling-Sutton, interns and volunteers applied their carpentry skills in the production of the benches and tables. Aaron recapped his experience with the habitus project:

 “Our Girls Build interns Ella, Cheyenne, and Haylee, and our Portland Youth Builders interns Noah and Jeff went the extra mile by working many long and full shifts filled with cutting, milling, assembling, sanding, and transporting. In the end, our staff couldn't have felt more proud to see our interns taking initiative and responsibility for the project, even to the point of being directed by some of them! Great work, team!”

Ann Hamilton’s habitus can be viewed and experienced Friday through Sunday, between 3 and 7PM at the Centennial Mills Pavilion (1362 NW Naito Parkway at NW 9th Avenue). The show is free and open to the public through September 16th.  All commonplace page donations support our programs at the ReBuilding Center.


Images by the ReBuilding Center

Our Third Annual Day of Service

By: Susan Hopkins

An August highlight for the Rebuilding Center is our third annual Day of Service. Volunteers get to meet other Portlanders and work on homes in our local neighborhoods, doing minor home repairs for long-time homeowners in the North and inner Northeast neighborhoods.

On Saturday, August 11, the ReBuilding Center joins with the African American Alliance for Homeownership to bring the community an annual Day of Service, offering minor repairs to eight neighborhood homeowners. These services are provided to our neighbors who are at risk of being displaced from their homes due to their need for repairs. Volunteers tackle a wide range of projects:

  • Removal and repair of rotting stairs

  • Demo and re-pouring of concrete stairs

  • Cleaning up overgrown yards

  • Installation of handrails

  • Mending fence boards

  • Sink installation

  • Door hanging

  • Painting houses



We provide pastries and coffee in the morning to get everyone started off strong, along with a lunch provided at ReBuilding Center at noon, celebrating with a happy hour with discounted drinks at a local venue at the end of this important day.

This is an excellent opportunity for volunteers with prior building experience to apply their expertise to a great cause, or for those who want to learn DIY skills. These volunteers are interested in pitching in on a Day of Service team to build a healthier and more vibrant community.

A special thank you to Columbia Bank, Wells Fargo, and StormBreaker Brewing for partnering with us on this event!

Product Preview: Paint, Wood, & New Point of Sale System!


By: Ian Hayes

Although “new” isn’t something you normally associate with the ReBuilding Center, we have some exciting new things to share with you. Starting Friday, August 3, you will be able to purchase cans of Metro paint and unused juniper lumber! Through strategic partnerships with MetroPaint and Sustainable Northwest Wood, we’re able to continue our commitment to strengthening the environment and our local communities through the use of salvaged, reclaimed, and sustainable materials.

Sustainable Northwest Wood

 Photo credit to Sustainable Northwest Wood

Photo credit to Sustainable Northwest Wood

Guided by the mission of supporting small, rural mills, Sustainable Northwest Wood offers only locally-sourced materials from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forests, salvage sources, and ecosystem restoration projects all across the Pacific Northwest. Their goal is to provide regionally-sourced wood as a useful byproduct of restoration projects, and many of their logs are pulled from waste streams where they would otherwise be chipped or pulped.

To start with, we’ll be offering 2”x6”x8’ #2 grade juniper, which performs well outdoors, lasts longer than any other native Pacific Northwest species, and works great as a substitute for chemically pressure-treated wood. You’ll also find juniper jacket boards in our lumber yard, which are great for creative projects. Jacket boards are the outer slices of the log that are cut off first when the log goes through a mill. They still have the bark attached, showing the original curve of the tree trunk, but the opposite side is flat. They’re usually considered waste, but we know better! Jacket boards are perfect for siding, fences, even rustic displays.



Did you know you can recycle paint at Metro Central, Metro South and other recycling centers around Portland? Don’t let your leftover paint go to the landfill or clutter up your house, recycle it!

Using recycled paint can decrease your carbon footprint, reduce the need for landfill space, conserve the amount of water needed to make new paint, and prevent pollution caused by mining the raw materials used to make paint. MetroPaint is previously unwanted latex paint that is screened for quality, and re-blended according to a strict color-matching process that ensures consistency. It’s good for indoor and outdoor use, inhibits the growth of mold and fungus, and comes with a five-year limited warranty.

The ReBuilding Center will be stocking gallon cans of six different colors: Barn Red, Winter Sky, Fawn, Desert, Alpenfrost, and the coveted Mountain Snow. You can find them right next to the cashier station on a reclaimed wood display built by Process Improvement Coordinator Chris Larsen, for $12.95 per gallon.

New Point-of-Sale System Launches


For the first time ever at the ReBuilding Center, we are going to have an itemized point-of-sale system that lets us track inventory, including our new MetroPaint offerings! This means that we can have an accurate understanding of which varieties of paint and other select products we have in stock (and how many units) as well as which colors seem to be the most popular. We may even be able to post availability on our website, so you don’t have to call or visit to find out what we have in stock! This is a new process for us, so we’ll appreciate your patience and flexibility as we learn how to make it work best for you. We are open to feedback--please let us know what you think about the new register system, and “new” products!

Field Notes from the Deconstruction Team

By: Carina Dempsey

The ReBuilding Center’s DeConstruction team members have been hard at work this summer at many, many deconstruction sites! We wanted to give our readers an idea of what deconstruction looks like firsthand. All of the sites photographed below are located within a half-mile of RBC, in the Northwest and Northeast Portland neighborhoods. Enjoy! 

Our Latest Community Partners: New Seasons Market & Give!Guide

 Photo credit to New Seasons Market

Photo credit to New Seasons Market

By: Carina Dempsey

At the ReBuilding Center, community is at the heart of our mission. We are thrilled to announce that we have been selected as a Bag-it-Forward Program partner at both the Grant Park and Raleigh Hills New Seasons Markets! This means that when you shop at these New Seasons locations and use a reusable bag, you are able to donate your 5-cent bag credit to the ReBuilding Center or other awesome nonprofits. Those little beans in the jars really add up and help support our education and community-building programs! Thank you to New Seasons Market for helping us build sustainable and equitable communities through reuse!

The Grant Park New Seasons is located at 3210 NE Broadway St, Portland, OR 97232, and the Raleigh Hills branch is located at 7300 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy, Portland, OR 97225.

 Photo credit to Give!Guide

Photo credit to Give!Guide

Additionally, we have been selected to be featured in Willamette Week’s 2018 Give!Guide, which goes live on November 1 and ends on December 31. Give!Guide showcases select nonprofits and encourages donations at the end of each year by hosting Big Give Days, in which donors can win prizes by donating a minimum of $10 to a nonprofit of their choosing! This year, prizes range from a Powell’s Books Shopping Expedition to a trip to Brasada Ranch in Central Oregon, and the ReBuilding Center will be offering its own fun incentives for donors. Last year, we were honored to receive $10,000 in donations to support our work, and this year we are aiming for $15,000. Keep an eye out for an invite to our Give!Guide Launch Party this fall!


An Inside Look into the Past, Present, & Future of RBC with a Salvage Specialist

By: Chris Lambert

I started at the ReBuilding Center in November 2005, so I’ve been here twelve-going-on-thirteen years. When I look at the organization today, what gives me the most hope is that we seem to be pretty good at adapting and changing, and figuring out what we need to do to keep up. I see us consciously trying to do this, and this is good.

The meetings we’ve been having recently, the strategic planning meetings, and the conversations we’ve been having in our weekly Store meetings—we’re batting around ideas and focusing on the right things. Making improvements in the store and alleyway, finding ways to organize things better—this new activity has been good. Most important is that now we’re starting to go from general ideas to specific things we can do and concrete actions we can take.


As we translate ideas into concrete actions, I’m especially interested in how some of the key areas we’ve been talking about come together. The combination of improving the shopability of the store, improving wayfinding and making it easier to get around, improving signage—these efforts will make it easier for customers to shop here, and they’ll make it easier on staff too, as customers need to call on us less to answer questions about pricing or where to find things.

The real challenge for us will be to stay focused on our plans and not let our goals get buried by the day to day. Even though we’re making plans and trying to adapt, we can get so caught up in trying to keep up. We’re going to have to keep an eye on our long-term goals and make small changes when we can. This is the key. Big goals can seem overwhelming, but small changes every day and over time will slowly move us in the right direction.

If money weren’t a constraint, I’d invest in doing some painting on the inside to brighten up the interior and make things look better and cleaner. The other thing would be to make a parking or loading turn-out in the alleyway to help traffic flow through better and help speed up the donation process. An awning over the donation area would be nice too, so we would have shelter from the elements—for us and for customers, but also the stuff. If there was a cabinet donation and it was raining we could leave it outside while we figure out where to put it without it getting wet or damaged.


Working on efficiencies, shopability, getting the cashier space working right with the new point of sale system—all of this is really important. Also staffing—I think we need to get a few more people in. These are the most important things.

When someone comes to me looking for something they think they won’t be able to find—some little plumbing washer or something—and I’m pretty sure we have it and am able to help find it for them, they’re amazed. That’s my favorite part. Recently, a lady came in and I could tell she was anxious. She came in looking a very specific cabinet door, and she brought in an example with her. She asked for help and I said, “Oh yes, we have lots of cabinet doors,” and I sent her in the right direction. When she came back she was smiling, and I could see the relief in her. I could tell right away she found exactly what she wanted.

I’ve sort of been taking care of Ella Cat for a long time. She was here when I got here. I think Tom said she was here before we moved in. I hear she came with the building. I look out for her. Sometimes she’ll come to whine to me if something’s not right. There are only a few things it could be: food, water, potty…sometimes she just wants some attention. I notice she’s been a little mellower since she had her bad teeth pulled a few years ago. Now she has more patience for kids. I just took Ella Cat for her regular annual vet check-up. The doctor drew some blood, so we need to wait on the results from that. She had a few fleas, so they treated that, and her weight is down a little from last year, but at first glance the doctor said Ella Cat seems to be doing great and aging gracefully.

What do pets do for us? That’s a good question. We have to look out for them—they kind of make us less selfish, and more aware of other creatures.


This place really is a special and magical oasis in a crazy world. A place that’s a little closer what the world should be, where people can come and decompress, and that can serve as an example that something a little different is possible.

If this was the last day and the world ended tomorrow, I’d just want it to be like any given day at the ReBuilding Center. I’d pay attention, and just savor all the little details that I really like about it here. The energy and activity that goes on in the place, the interactions with customers and helping customers, seeing them smile when the find what they’re looking for, feeding and petting Ella Cat for the last time…

Just all the regular day to day stuff.


ReBuilding Center team member Kelly Stevens road-tripped to Eugene on June 13 to attend the Association of Oregon Recyclers' annual conference. In addition to connecting with others in the "Three Rs" realm, Kelly attended an inspiring session on reuse in action to support community creativity and entrepreneurship--including speaker Mitra Chester, the In-House Fashion Designer from St. Vincent de Paul in Eugene. A Reuse Fashion Show put on by St. Vinnie's? Who knew reuse could be so chic?

Another highlight was an interactive group field trip to BRING, a Eugene recycling and reuse institution since the 1970s. They have gotten pretty darn creative with some of their salvaged materials--including re-purposing street sweeper brushes to be used by farms with cows who need scratching posts, and using bed springs for fencing! From rhinos to toilet-cover art to a bike section to their Chapel of Second Chances (where a few weddings have taken place), the field trip was full of inspiration. See a few of the photos below:

Fun in the Sun around RBC: Our Summer Event Preview

By: Carina Dempsey 


First Up: Good in the Hood

On Saturday, June 23, the Rebuilding Center rocked the float while participating in the annual Good in the Hood parade! The parade started at the intersection of N Williams Ave & N Russell St and ended at King School Park. Renowned musical magician and RBC neighbor, Ural Thomas, and his band kept the party going on the float for five hours with fun tunes and ad-libbed ones, in the Ural tradition. What a fun celebration and historic community tradition!


Next: Mississippi Street Fair

The 2018 Mississippi Street Fair will be held Saturday, July 14th from 10am-9pm. Come out to celebrate the breadth and diversity of North Mississippi Avenue, and the individuals that make up this community. Spend a summer day checking out music, art, and food from local vendors, and learn more about the various businesses and nonprofits on or near Mississippi Ave. The Rebuilding Center will have an informational booth and games at the fair, as well as a special summer sale at our store with discounts you won’t want to miss. We’ll see you there!

Annual Ice Cream Social

Mark your calendars to cool off on North Mississippi Avenue: an ice cream social will be taking place August 30 at the Rebuilding Center and other businesses along the avenue! Make sure to stop by for a tasty summer treat, and to spend some quality time socializing with Rebuilding Center volunteers and staff. Additionally, if you have a furry friend, stay tuned for the doggie ice cream in the works.

The Oregon Tradeswomen Career Fair: Empowering Young Women Across Portland

By: Melissa Bockwinkel, Ella Rose Kelly, Becca Schultz & Mayela Alvarado

Tell us about the event you just attended:


Becca Schultz (BS): We attended the Oregon Tradeswomen Career Fair on Girls Day. 1,700 middle school and high school girls throughout Oregon participated. It is one of the largest hands-on career fairs in the nation. It gives girls the chance to experience construction trades in a women-led environment, which is not always how women are introduced to the trade. Girls have the opportunity to do everything from fixing a leaky water main to climbing telephone poles (spike shoes included!), riding in bucket trucks, shooting a firehouse, building things like bird houses, planter boxes, wiring a light, practicing welding and pipe bending, using propane torches, and laying down roofing. In addition to the hands-on work, they get a chance to talk to women who work in this field every day, women who could be seen as mentors to those interested in the trades. Starting to network and build relationships with professionals in the field is also an important element. Portland Women in Building!

Ella Rose Kelly (ERK): This year we concentrated on planter boxes. We had four different groups of 18-20 in size come through our area, and focused on middle school and high school age groups. Our goal was having the girls be able to handle power tools, work together as a team, and help each other out as planter boxes were finished—with no injuries!


Mayela Alvarado (MA): It is always an honor to represent the ReBuilding Center. It is fun and exciting to share who we are to a group of young women who may not have known about the ReBuilding Center or the reuse industry, and how to create something of value out of raw materials. It was lovely expressing the importance of the skills in reuse, such as safety and communication, and putting these skills into practice when the groups created their planter boxes. It was great to have the tools available for them and the pre-cut material—thanks to all who helped prep the materials! We encouraged them to work together as teams and everyone had fun on their projects. We have been doing this since the beginning (six years!) and it is always fun how we all pull together to make it a great experience for the participants. We are planting the seeds with these girls to whatever may come in their futures. In the end, they were able to create such beautiful projects.

What was one highlight from the day that stood out to you?

ERK: One girl with short-blond hair and Carhartts—she was frustrated to start, and just the joy on her face when she finished made my day that she had something to take home and plant her tomatoes in.


BS: This year I volunteered as a VIP Tour Guide. I got to chat with women from DHS in Central Oregon, working with women in the tribes, those formerly incarcerated, and those who are sole providers of their family. We talked about how to get women into the construction trades to make a living wage. Construction provides not only living wage but prevailing wage jobs, while at the same time not incurring any student debt.

A second highlight of the day was just being there seeing 1,700 girls be exposed to the trades, seeing their faces light up when they experienced any one of the activities, and igniting the sense of opportunity. They can do this kind of thing too and also may do it better.

MA: One of the teachers was regretting that she had not heard about us in order to make room for her students. I asked her to stop back at the end and we were able to provide her with some of the extra materials we had left over from the other groups so she could take it back to her classroom and complete the planter boxes later.


Why is the ReBuilding Center’s partnership with Oregon Tradeswomen important?

ERK: We empower and encourage. We don’t just value existing materials—we value our community resources as well. It’s important to teach the youth about their futures, to not waste things and fill the landfill but, rather, to be more aware of how materials can be reused.

MA: Giving the girls insight into reuse possibilities, along with hands-on exposure using hand tools to create a useful project with the help of each other.

As more women get involved in the trades, how do you think the trades will change?

BS: We can bring a different skillset and thought process to the trades that historically hasn’t been there. It makes more job sites equitable for everyone, and more accepting and welcoming to diversity in the workplace. I also think it will bring more compassion to the workplace. Women can be really good at building teams, and as more women enter the trades, we can expect to see more women as supervisors and more equitable building practices. We can build more of a connection to “place,” and people may be more tied to the communities they are in. There is also the chance to bring a different approach to problem solving.

ERK: I think the trades will become more non-traditional. We are challenging the stereotype that women should stay in the home by having more women present out in the trade fields, climbing ladders, and as electricians.

The “Wash and Pack” Project with Mudbone Grown

By: Sam Serling-Sutton

 This past May, I had the privilege of working with a group of farmers from Portland’s own urban farming nonprofit, Mudbone Grown. They approached us in the ReBuilding Center’s workshop to see if we could aid in the process of designing and building a “Wash and Pack” station, and while my carpentry career could graciously be described as “eclectic,” it has never once led me to build, let alone hear about anything akin to such a project. I was instantly on board.


On the first morning, the shop slowly filled with bleary eyes. Fifteen farmers-to-be milled around waiting to begin, waiting to be told what they were going to build and how they were going to build it. Luckily for them, we were all on the same page of nescience, which led us easily into the first step of successful design: dreaming. With no other direction than programmatic need, we separated into small groups and asked each to draw out ideal stations with no limitations.

What we saw out of these initial iterations were beautifully thought-out stations—some with drawers and roofs, others with hanging portions and shelves, and even one with a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption that washed and dried the vegetables on its own. Each idea was trotted out and presented in turn before we placed them all on a table and discussed them as a whole. 


Design is about translation and communication. The process needs to be led through intention rather than pretension. It’s one of the most intoxicating processes I’ve found and one that I aim to replicate consistently in my life. Performing this as a group is instantly democratic. There isn’t room for form above function; for personalities before operations.

Over the course of the first day, we were able to make our way through about three more of these mini design-studios. At the end of the day, we had discovered as a group the shape and specifics of our Wash and Pack station! An entirely unique and bespoke piece of farming equipment that was soon to exist.

Between the first and second days, the Mudbone crew was tasked with following the cut list that they had created from their drawn-out plans and sections in order to purchase the necessary equipment. The station required mostly lumber, in addition to a few sinks—all of which was effortlessly corralled right here at the Rebuilding Center (the best part of doing a design-build here in the Education shop!).

With the bulk of the design work behind us, day two flowed much in the same way that the rest of our classes do. We were able to lead the team through a series of tutorials on safe shop usage in addition to training on measuring techniques, drill presses, chop saws, etc. The day was spent bringing our skills up to the level we needed in order to pull off our table in addition to a little more on-the-fly scheming and design (who would have thought sinks were so deep???).



The process of any design-build is, while continuously frustrating, endlessly rewarding. The process helps to demystify the built environment. It illustrates just how accessible our world can be despite often feeling exactly the opposite. A table isn’t anything more than four legs and a top. A house isn’t more than four walls and a roof. It’s all the same skills implemented at different scales. You take wood apart and you put it back together. If you can learn to do the first part safely and the second part carefully, you’ll begin to see that the universe is rich with these small coincidences.

By day three, the Mudbone crew and I had seemingly switched places. For one, it was my turn to show up bleary-eyed to their space. That morning, as I pulled up to their latest farm plot, I saw the 12 of them busily moving lumber and setting up tools, eager to erect their creation. I honestly can’t take any credit for actually putting the Wash and Pack station together—I don’t think I even touched a drill that day. It wasn’t three hours from the time I arrived that we were all happily standing around the completed station trying to design a roof structure out of our extra lumber!


While the specifics of this endeavor are a little different than the usual fare we have in and out of our Education shop it’s in no other way unique. It’s one of the thousands of things I love about the Rebuilding Center. The students who come through our shop are, without exception, outstanding. There is an eagerness and appreciation for the craft. The space that we have created here, tucked away in the back of our building, is something I’ve not witnessed in any of the other shops I’ve worked in. It is truly exceptional and I can’t wait to see what other incredible opportunities and experiences continue to emerge.

Portland Timbers Help us “Tetris” in the Lumberyard

By: Carina Dempsey

In the evening of Thursday, June 14, we had the pleasure of hosting some members of the Portland Timbers team as part of the traditional Stand Together Week—to get their hands dirty with us at the ReBuilding Center and help us sort some of our latest donations of salvaged wood. Timbers’ defender Harold Hanson, retired player Nat Borchers , and video analyst Shannon Murray all came to the Rebuilding Center, spending a couple of hours in the lumberyard with several enthusiastic RBC staff members.


Throughout the evening, staff members Chris Larsen and Pete Heim showed the Timbers crew how to grade the historic lumber, and eventually they got to do the grading themselves. They helped organize the materials by standing up some tall pieces of cedar wood vertically against the wall in the lumber yard. The evening was filled with the grading, straightening, and sorting of wood, and smiles all around.

 An old 2” x 4” pictured on the left and a modern 2” x 4” on the right.

An old 2” x 4” pictured on the left and a modern 2” x 4” on the right.

Chris said that the Timbers really enjoyed their time at RBC and were excited to help out. He also said that they were very interested in learning about the history of the lumber in our store. In some cases, the lumber here has up to 100 years of growth rings, while the modern wood pieces only have about 10. This means that some of the wood from our store has the potential to be hundreds of years old, and still has never left Portland! Talk about sticking to your roots.

A huge thank you to the Portland Timbers for coming out to the Rebuilding Center, lending some helping hands, and showing their support. Be sure to drop by the lumberyard to check out some of the 2” x 4”s they sorted, and of course, go Timbers!

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?

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