Creating Meaning with Materials

By: Alexandra Ferrara

In an effort to realize our mission of making a material difference, the ReBuilding Center donates reclaimed building materials to like-minded local organizations and projects. You can learn more about that here. One of these projects includes Agape Village, a village for the houseless in Southeast Portland.


On a dreary afternoon, I hop into our newly wrapped box truck with Alberto at the wheel. We spot Jon in the big truck just up the road on North Mississippi Avenue, ready to lead the way. In our trucks we are carrying wooden and metal cabinets, reclaimed lath and lumber, and about half a dozen TriMet bus stop roofs.

As we inch slowly east on I-84 with rain splashing on the windshield, I cannot help but feel incredibly grateful for my job and the opportunities to witness the ways in which materials can have such a large impact in our community. Our store on North Mississippi Avenue is a magical place to be, but I find it just as special to follow the materials from the store to their new homes away from the ReBuilding Center.

Agape Village was born through the efforts of Central Church of the Nazarene and their houseless neighbors. The village resides along a hillside adjacent to the church. As Alberto turns the corner of the parking lot, we make our way up the hill to a breathtaking view of the autumn trees over I-205. As our eyes shift up the hillside to the village, we marvel in its innovation. There are all different types of homes, made from all sorts of materials. Alberto “wows” at a semi truck trailer converted into a tiny home—it is clear that creativity and resourcefulness found their place at this village.

In true Portland fashion, the rain does not put a damper on anyone’s spirits or motivation to get a job done. We meet up with an Agape Village volunteer and resident in the newest cluster of homes currently being built. They start unloading materials with the help of Jon and Alberto, while I have the easy task of snapping some photos.

As I look back at these photos, I see the power in our community’s ability to create meaning with materials. I hope you see the same. To learn more about Agape Village and how you can get involved in the community project, click here.  

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