"Over a Decade" of Relationship Building and Waste Stream Diversion

By: Leif Amundson (ReBuilding Center Assistant Store Manager)

I can’t say how long I’ve worked here—that is like telling people how old I am. Let’s say I’ve worked here for “over a decade...”

I saw a Craigslist ad for a driver at the ReBuilding Center. It stood out because I had a friend that had been talking this place up, so I applied and was hired. This place was nuts back then—everything was thrown together. It was very much a grassroots nonprofit, but there was still a lot going on.

Being on the driving team was super-fast paced—we were a scrappy group of drivers working hard to get as much material in as possible each day. I really enjoyed being on the road, doing my best to salvage everything we could, while also educating the public. There is a lot of relationship building involved in our jobs. It is really important to educate on reuse and how we do things at the ReBuilding Center. The whole process is very dynamic. We have to understand what people want to donate, but also what people want to buy to reuse. I am constantly working on understanding this dynamic. There can be a lot of managing expectations, but we are able to get so much more after working on building relationships with the public.

It is also really rewarding to salvage lumber with our DeConstruction team. We are able to not only save forests, but also give people the option to be as green as possible. If we weren’t here, so many more lumber products would be in the landfill. I really enjoy being a part of the collaboration that it takes to bring in all of these materials.

I’ve worked in many positions since I was hired as a Driver “over a decade” ago—Driving Department Assistant Manager, Driving Department Manager, Driver (again), Assistant Manager, and now Assistant Co-Manager in the store. The coolest thing about our store is the affordability. Earlier today, a customer was here on a budget. He bought a perfect-condition light fixture and a sink for only $38. He would have paid three times that for something new from another store. I love that we provide affordability to the public. It’s fun to have nice and vintage items, but at the core of it, we have affordable items. We’re keeping materials out of the waste stream and helping people save money.  

In regard to the health of the store, I do worry about the changing face of Portland and people’s willingness to use marginal building materials for remodels and for the real estate market. I don’t want to focus only on money, but the wealthier Portland gets, the harder it will be for us to survive. For example, we used to have a lot of customers who were property owners. Many of these customers have turned their properties into much higher-end places, so we aren’t seeing them shopping here as much. This is why it’s important for us to continue to reach out to Portland communities who could benefit from what we provide. Our customer base may always be changing, but I think there will always be a need for what we do. It gives me hope that we are a valued Portland institution, and I think our culture of waste stream diversion is really important.

Our awesome and dynamic staff also gives me hope. My coworkers are like family. I have known so many of them for such a long time. Even the new staff - it’s nice because most people stay around for a while. We all know each other really well. I love the independence we are able to have in our work. I like where we are with the co-leadership model and the intention to be transparent through the entire organization. We just need to keep on keeping on with the things we are good at. We should continue to refine what we do, educate the public, and make sure we have a strong presence in the community. If we do this, we’ll remain a valued place for salvaged materials and waste stream diversion.

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