Employee Spotlight

"That's Pretty Rad" - a Farewell Letter

April Robbins was one of the first ReBuilding Center Education instructors. After being with the ReBuilding Center since 2016, her time teaching here came to a close this month. The ReBuilding Center community will miss April and we wish her the best of luck in her building endeavors!

By: April Robbins


“What in the world...” and “that’s pretty rad,” are the simultaneous thoughts I had while walking into the spectacle that is the Administrative Offices of the ReBuilding Center.  The doors on the ceiling, the hodgepodge of windows and siding making up the cubicles; I wondered about the workings of such a creative space with its animated and consistently helpful staff.  I was working at Oregon Tradeswomen (OTI) at the time and living in the Boise neighborhood as one of the reluctantly endured transplants from California, blissfully unaware of vitamin D deficiencies and things like ‘freezing fog’. 

Setting up opportunities for the pre-apprenticeship students at the ReBuilding Center was a seamless task with the help of Dave, the Volunteer Coordinator at the time.  We worked together a few times, and about a month after I parted ways with OTI in May of 2016, I got in touch with Dave again and signed up to help the Portland Public Schools make 3 stringed instruments in the shop!  Things snowballed from there and I’ve been honored to be an instructor for the ReBuilding Center through this past December.

The ReBuilding Center and Education team are not just a ‘can do’ group but a ‘must do’.  There is an understanding that Portland needs and cherishes its makers, its most unorthodox businesses, and the gritty people who are motivated not by comfort and ease, but by passion and confidence - the very values the Education department fuels in its students.  Portland stands out among the places I’ve lived as a determined and unwavering progressive city with a strong core and welcoming spirit; and my experience at the ReBuilding Center supports that experience. 

Thank you all very much for your assistance, gentle hellos, lighthearted humor, and all around support.  I will certainly miss being on staff.  For the time being, I will be working for a builder, Neil Kelly.  I will undoubtedly be rolling up the alleyway with donations and perusing the aisle for finds. Thanks for making my time here exceptional.

"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.

Recycling Kindness

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By: Ella Rose Kelly

This April 11th will be 14 years at the ReBuilding Center, and I am so diggin’ on it. In addition to this job, I’ve had 72 other jobs in Portland—25 years of construction work, a fire watch, and many cashiering jobs. This is my favorite job.

It’s a bizarre story of what led me to work at the ReBuilding Center. I had been cashiering for a while at Big City Small World Produce, and there was a young lady, Nora, who bought food there all the time. She worked at the ReBuilding Center. One day, Nora overheard me telling someone I needed a second job because I was buying a house. She said that the ReBuilding Center was hiring, so I came down and applied. I was looking for a job, but this job came and got me.

I haven’t always loved my jobs, but I always like them. You don’t always feel good when you start a job—you might be uncomfortable because of the unknown. But once you know it becomes a part of you and you can work it. I had already been a customer at the ReBuilding Center before I started working here. I was always impressed as a customer because the ReBuilding Center was the place to come to find what you need at a reasonable price. When I started working here, though, it was my first time learning about reuse and sustainability. I was nervous about learning everything that we do here. It was hard learning… but just like riding a bike—once I learned, I never stopped. I’m all about saving the Earth now. It’s part of my being.

Because of my past jobs as a cashier, I was already familiar with meeting people. Meeting people is right up my alley. I get to meet phenomenal people from all over. I like to be personal with customers because our community is like family. I help them with ReBuilding Center questions, but I also ask them how they are doing. I encourage them when they are hurting. Sometimes customers come in sad, but leave happy. That means something to me. That’s not recycling wood, that’s recycling kindness. We all have goodness to share and an ability to show love. The more goodness we share and love we show, the better we can make the world.

Andrey Interviewing Ella Rose

Andrey Interviewing Ella Rose

I am very proud and honored to be an Assistant Store Manager. I was nervous at first, but I am getting more familiar now. I am learning things one at a time and walking the walk. It’s important to be there for our co-workers and that is what I have always tried to do. As an Assistant Manager, I have been a part of the Executive Director search. I am excited to participate. It’s a learning experience and it’s a good experience I am diggin’ it. I believe the most important quality for our next Executive Director to have is heart. They need to have the heart of the people, the heart of the employees, and the heart of the community.

What we do—we’re bad to the bone, we’re amazing. We give back to the community. We are a monument and we are here to stay. Sometimes I worry that we will lose guests because of issues, like parking or new buildings, but no matter what, the guests will still come. What gives me hope is hearing our guests say, “I’m glad the ReBuilding Center is here. I’m glad you aren’t leaving us.” My advice to us is to be encouraged and to never give up. We must stand our ground and keep supporting the sustainability cycle. Doing this will benefit the Earth. And when we save the Earth, we save ourselves.

I love this place… I really do. The ReBuilding Center is my family.

Music + DeConstruction Intertwine

By: Mike Richards

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According to Douglas, I’ve been here 13 years. I originally took the job because I needed to pay my mortgage. I used to work with contractors, and we did a lot of bad things. I didn’t know about asbestos… nobody said anything about dangers. I came here with that same mindset, but the site manager said: “STOP! That’s asbestos!” I was trying to shake this furnace apart and I thought I was doing my job. That was the first time anyone had explained it to me. That opened my eyes.

And then the part where we save stuff instead of trash stuff. At my past job, we’d be taking stuff apart – a beautiful cabinet – I’d say: “don’t you want to keep that?” And my boss would say: “no, I don’t work with used material. It takes too much time to work with.” I didn’t really become conscious of this stuff until I came to work at the ReBuilding Center. In my old job, we sent so much to the landfill that could have been saved. Here I got to thinking about it and then I started feeling guilty about all the waste.

I think the ReBuilding Center is going to keep striving forward. People get a little uptight about change. It’s a scary thing for most of us. I’m a musician and I used to be afraid of computers. Now I have a computer, and I do all my music on a computer. It’s going to work. Keep our heads up. Work together. If there’s a storm, we just work through it together. We have a strong team of people.

Let’s put it this way: I came up here from Chicago at the age of 11. When I was in Chicago I was exposed to some of the best musicians in the world without knowing it. People in the park, walking by clubs…when I moved to Portland, I got to play the guitar in church. The pastor said he would teach me but only if I would play in church. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that because I wanted to go big time. He said you could be big time in the Church. I liked our pastor but he scared me.

In the 6th grade, I had an acoustic guitar and I started taking lessons but I didn’t like where it was going. Now I look back and it was going in a good place. My teacher couldn’t play any BB King – he was trying to teach me notes and to sight read, he started me out with Jingle Bells. I was a guitar player before I actually played the guitar. I used to tell people I was a guitar player before I had ever touched one so then I had to rise to the occasion. I used to knock on the doors of all the best guitar players in town and get them to show me how to play. At 12 I started my own three-piece band. At our first gig, nobody sang, so I just made up a song. Pay backs the Dog! After that, people would always say that when they saw me, like in the grocery store: Pay backs the dog! They would sing my own song back at me.

I’m into vintage instruments. Wood that’s over a hundred years old doesn’t just have a look quality to it, it has a tone quality. After getting into vintage I never wanted a new guitars. It’s only now that new companies are trying to go back and make instruments that sound more like vintage, using vintage wood, hand building. A few years ago, Gibson got in trouble for using rosewood from the rain forests. Good wood is harder and harder to get, so when we’re deconstructing I’ve got a love for the wood. I light up when I see it. I say: “look at all those guitars.”

Driving Ride-Along

By: Alison Dennis

This past month I had the opportunity to ride along with our Driving team, and see the ReBuilding Center from the vantage of a passenger’s seat.

The first stop was at a warehouse in North Portland to pick up a large furniture donation. The warehouse crew fork lifted pallets of boxes and we moved them onto the box truck. What struck me as we worked was how much life and camaraderie there was among our team, and that the people working in the warehouse seemed to light up in our driving team’s presence.

Take away: No matter who is on shift, it feels good in our store. I’ll never take that feeling for granted – the feeling of working somewhere where people lift each other up.

During the day I got to ride along with both Jon and Alberto. Jon talked to me like a taxi driver as we drove, and asked me some of the most thoughtful questions that I’ve been asked about my work and life in a long time – the kind of questions that struck a nerve and moved my thinking forward. There is both an ease and a diligence to the way Alberto drives, like a great dance partner who somehow manages to gracefully steer clear of other couples on the floor.

Take away: Leadership isn’t dependent on a job title, or having a desk job. Taking an active interest in our fellow people and listening fully is an act of leadership. Looking out for everyone around you is an act of leadership.

In the afternoon, we took both trucks to Northwest and collected some old doors, lumber and lighting fixtures from the basement of an apartment building. 3000 inspected each of the lights with care, and took time to show the owners (and me) some asbestos in one of the fixtures. His tone was polite and helpful, and we all left the exchange safer and smarter.

Take away: Our community work isn’t limited to special events and parades. All day, every day, our drivers are out and about, serving of ambassadors and inviting everyone to make a material difference together.

Thanks to Alberto, 3000, Jon and Josh for making me feel so welcome, putting me to work, and keeping me safe!

En Desafío Siempre Hay Una Recompensa

By: Victor Vidal


Empecé el 21 de mayo de 2004. Mis primos comenzaron a trabajar aquí, yo trabaje con ellos instalando techos. Tom me dio la oportunidad. Tom es una persona divertida y muy agradable. En aquel entonces, Tom comenzó a hablar algunas palabras en español. Muy amable, a Tom no le importa el color de tu piel o raza. Nos llevamos muy bien, entonces comenzamos a crear una relación. Mi primo Nico, fue quien me contó a cerca de la oportunidad de trabajo aquí. Yo Tenía 20 años, ellos me dijeron que posiblemente no me gustaría. Había mucha gente aquí con experiencia, pero Tom dijo que todavía tenía la oportunidad de poder aprender. Tom me dijo; tus parientes están aquí, ellos te pueden ayudar.

Esta es una de mis historias favoritas sobre RBC. Nos enviaron a un lugar en Washington, a dos horas de aquí. Fue mi primera experiencia ir a acampar y trabajar al mismo tiempo. Fue a fines de septiembre; la temporada de lluvias estaba comenzando. Había alrededor de seis personas.  Había un tipo llamado Dana. Él era divertido. Cuando llegamos cerca del sitio de trabajo, nos dijeron; tienes una semana para terminar el trabajo. Era una casa pequeña, un tipo de edificio de garaje. Dijeron que sería una buena idea preparar cada uno un sitio para acampar. Nunca había experimentado algo así. Estábamos en un bosque. Traje mi tienda de acampar, trajimos cosas incluyendo comida. Trabajamos el primer día, al final limpiamos los espacios para instalar la tienda de acampar. Llovía ligeramente durante la noche, pero no sabía que Dana salía a fumar. Entonces comenzó a arrojar pequeñas piedras a mi tienda, esos eran ruidos extraños. Algo como un animal salvaje. No dije nada al día siguiente. continúo haciéndolo la siguiente noche mientras yo trataba de dormir. Al día siguiente, les dije, el miércoles será mi último día, me voy a casa. Tenía miedo porque algo estaba sucediendo. Él me dijo, "espera, ¡fui yo!"  Le dije: "¡No he podido dormir!" …Y eso quedo atrapado en mi cabeza -- desde entonces no puedo ir a acampar. Fue una buena experiencia salir acampar y trabajar al mismo tiempo. Años después, tuvimos un trabajo en el centro de la ciudad ... su casa estaba en la esquina. Dana apareció me vio y dijo "hey, ¿recuerdas?"

¿Por qué elegí continuar trabajando para RBC? Porque en cada sitio de trabajo, encuentro nuevas experiencias. Cuando se corta ciertos tipos de madera, hay olores diferente. Encuentras muchas antigüedades, y eso despierta mi interés en el trabajo. Todas las personas que han venido aquí son buenas personas.

Desde que vine aquí (al país), entendí que de lo que diga, me puede meter en problemas. Mi padre siempre me dijo que siguiera recto por el sendero. Él me dijo que escuchara, basado en mi experiencia, me sugirió, cuídate y concéntrate en tu trabajo. Eso es algo que obtuve de mi padre, él me deseó suerte en ese entonces. En mi familia, soy el más tímido y callado. Al mismo tiempo, el idioma era una barrera. Mi padre está muy contento con mi promoción. Él está muy feliz. Nunca imagino que yo iba a ascender a esta posición o nivel porque dice que no me acababa de conocer... Él no entiende cómo logré esta posición.

No sé si explico esto claramente, pero haré lo mejor en mi posición para aumentar la productividad. Me gusta mucho mi trabajo. Quiero seguir creciendo. Realmente creo que es posible. aunque al momento las cosas sean difíciles. Somos un equipo de 4 o 5. Nos conocemos muy bien, tenemos contacto cercano. La diferencia se nota con 3 o 4 personas más. Con menos gente, la comunicación es fuerte y trabajamos bien juntos. Empiezo a pensar en cada una de las personas del equipo, porque hay momentos en que los veo cansados o estresados, hay ocasiones en que el trabajo es fácil y otros en los que es complicado. Siempre pienso en cómo hacer las cosas a futuro. Si los veo cansados, tengo que pensar cómo llegar al día siguiente y como motivarlos.

Creo que necesitamos más comunicación. ¿Qué aspecto tendría si nos comunicáramos de la mejor manera posible? Reuniones de líderes- exponer lo que está sucediendo, hablar sobre los trabajos que se están llevando a cabo abiertamente, no ocultar nada, porque si ocultamos cosas, será contra todos. Es menester poner todo sobre la mesa. La base de la compañía para ser de apoyo.

Necesitamos más trabajadores. Creo que sería una buena idea hacer publicidad en radio, en español e inglés. Y mencionar que hay muchos y muy Buenos beneficios en esta compañía.

Hay otras compañías que pueden ofrecer más dinero, pero estoy feliz aquí. Es menos dinero, pero vale la pena porque estoy feliz. La gente aquí es gentil. En otras compañías, las personas pueden ser codiciosas y arrogantes. Realmente me gusta estar aquí, podría estar aquí para siempre. Mi familia está feliz, tengo tiempo para mi ellos, yo estaré aquí. Hasta el día en que ustedes me digan que ya no hay trabajo para mí, estoy feliz de estar aquí.


In Challenge There is Always Reward

I started with the ReBuilding Center on May 21st, 2004. My cousin started working here first, he used to work doing roofing. Tom gave me the opportunity. Tom was a funny guy, very likeable. Back then, Tom started to speak some words in Spanish. He is very gentle - Tom doesn’t care about color of your skin or your race. We got along together very well, and started to create a relationship. My cousin Nico is the one who told me about the job opportunity here. I was 20 years old, and they told me that I might not like it. There were a lot of people here with experience, but Tom said that there was still an opportunity for me and that I could learn. Tom said that my relatives were here, and that they could help me adjust.

This is one of my favorite stories about the ReBuilding Center. We were sent to some part of Washington, about two hours from here. It was my first experience to go camping and work at the same time. It was the end of September; the rainy season was starting. There were around six people. There was a guy named Dana. He was a funny guy. When we got close to the job site, they told us you have a week. It was a small house, some type of garage building. They said it would be a good idea to prepare your camping site. I have never experienced anything like that. It was a lot of woods. I brought my tent, we brought things like food. We worked the first day, at the end we cleared out the spaces. It was light rain at night, but I didn’t know that Dana went out to smoke. And he started throwing rocks at my tent, and making weird noises, like a wild animal. I didn’t say anything. He kept doing it as I was trying to fall asleep. I told him on Wednesday it will be my last day because I was afraid something was going on. He told me, “no, it was me…” I told him that I haven’t been able to sleep. And that’s been stuck in my head ever since and I can’t go camping. It was a good experience to go out and camp and work at the same time. Years later, when I was working downtown… his house was on the corner. Dana saw me and said “hey, remember?”

Why do I choose to continue to work at RBC? Because at every job site, I find a new experience. When you are cutting certain types of wood, they smell different. You find a lot of antiques, it keeps me interested in working. All of the people who have come here are good people.

Ever since I came here (to the country), anything you say, you may fall into trouble. My father always told me to go straight on the trail. He told me to listen, gain experience, take care and focus on your job. That’s something that I got from my dad, he wished me luck back then. In my family, I am the most timid and quiet. At the same time, the language was a barrier. My dad is very happy about my promotion. He never expected that I was going to rise to a certain position or level because he says that he hasn’t known me… He doesn’t understand how I got to this position.

I don’t know if I explain this clearly, but I will do the best in my position to increase the productivity. I like my job a lot. I want to continue growing. I really think it’s possible. Things can be hard now. In DeCon, we are a team of 4 or 5. We know each other very well, we have close contact. The difference is noticed with 3 or 4 more people. With less people, the communication is strong and we work well together. I start to think about every person on the team, because there are times that I see them tired or stressed out, there are times when the job is easy and times when it is complicated. I always think about how to do things in the future. If I see them tired, I have to think about how to come the next day and motivate them.

I think we need more communication. What would it look like if we were communicating at our best? Meetings, leaders – we’d talk about what’s going on, talk about the jobs that are going on openly, don’t hide anything, because if we are hiding things, it will work against everyone. We should put everything on the table. The foundation of the company is to support each other.

We need more workers. I think it would be a good idea to advertise on the radio, in Spanish and English. And mention that there are many and very good benefits in this company.

There are other companies that may offer more money, but I am happy here. It is less money but worth it because I am happy. People here are gentle. At other companies, people can be greedy and arrogant. I really like to be here, I could be here forever. My family is happy, I have time for my family, time to be here. Until the day you guys tell me that I cannot work for you, I am happy to be here.

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!

Lean PDX Helps Streamline the RBC Shopping Experience

A streamlining process to improve the shopping experience at the ReBuilding Center (RBC) started with a band of “secret shoppers" made up of five Lean Portland volunteers and five RBC employees. The RBC Executive Director, Stephen Reichard, and Manager, Tom Patzkowski, were working the floor so the staff could work to improve the organization.  The “secret shoppers” were tasked to find materials for typical DIY projects, like building a dog house or replacing an exterior door. This allowed the staff and volunteers to gain a first-hand experience at what it is like to be a customer. 

The second workshop explored long term goals, identifying projects where Lean could consult with the RBC through 2017.  They also designed an experiment to improve customers’ first time shopping experience.  They promptly responded to the things they discovered in their studies and made a mockup kiosk with signage that identifies and explanes how to navigate the warehouses and make a purchases.

They summarized the results:

It was a lot of fun, and we saw about half the people pause and read the sign – some even taking tape measures (a key tool) with them as they went to go shopping. It was a great example of getting real-time feedback on something, without spending a lot of time planning to make it perfect. Our follow-up was that the team decided to continue to get feedback on the kiosk, and possibly create two additional kiosks for the additional entrances.

The next step over the next few months will be to identify opportunities for improving RBC donation and checkout processes. For the long term they would like to develop plans to increase capacity of the center while creating a more satisfying environment for their employees and their guests.

Oh, What A Year!

What a year! February 2016 seems like eons ago—when Portland City Council voted unanimously to approve the nation’s first ordinance mandating the deconstruction of all homes scheduled for demolition built prior to 1917. (These homes represent about 33% of single-family home demolitions.) You can watch the Council debate here; it starts around minute 70 and includes testimony from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s (BPS) Shawn Wood (1:19) and yours truly, Stephen Reichard, the ReBuilding Center's director (1:37). 

Flyer created for event

Flyer created for event

This landmark resolution will create jobs, increase safety related to lead and asbestos materials, and divert 4,000 tons of building materials annually for reuse. This is a crucial and pioneering first step, and we will work hard in 2017 to adapt to the growth of the deconstruction sector and drive further progress.


February also saw the dedication of the Sons of Haiti’s new food cart lot just to the south of the ReBuilding Center (RBC). A true community-wide partnership, dozens of supporters from across the neighborhood donated nearly $11,000, which was matched by $40,000 from the Portland Development Commission, in the effort to rebuild the lot to bring it into compliance with city code. This rebuilding effort established a significant revenue source for one of the last remaining Black-owned enterprises on Mississippi Avenue.

In March there was the Building Materials Reuse Association’s (BMRA) bi-annual gathering in Raleigh, North Carolina. Fresh off our legislative victory in Portland, the ReBuilding Center’s DeConstruction Services Manager, Doug Lichter; BPS’s Shawn Wood; and Metro’s Bryce Jacobsen told the story of the four-year effort to enshrine deconstruction as the preferred method over demolition. A local group of deconstruction industry representatives has submitted a proposal to host the fall 2017 BMRA DeCon Conference in Portland—the new epicenter of deconstruction.

Remember York? A one-man play about the first African American to the Pacific Northwest?  We co-produced this play with the Native American Youth and Family Association before an audience of 500 at Jefferson High School Auditorium in early March. 

Elaine & Milhouse pose in front of their house getting a fresh new paint job

Elaine & Milhouse pose in front of their house getting a fresh new paint job

More coalition building followed in the spring as the RBC’s Volunteer Services partnered with the African American Alliance for Home Ownership to establish a new tradition—Day of Service. More than 35 volunteers conducted much needed repairs on five homes in Portland’s North/Northeast Corridor for homeowners at risk of losing their homes. 

7th grade class posing with their new 3-string instruments

7th grade class posing with their new 3-string instruments

Flyer for adult education classes taking place in the RBC workshop

Flyer for adult education classes taking place in the RBC workshop

With the time, energy, and vision of more than a dozen volunteers, in 2016 our ReFind Center was reborn as the Education Program, offering classes and much, much more in the ReBuilding Center’s fully equipped workshop. In 2016, 402 Portland Public School seventh-grade students came to learn about the physics of sound while designing and building their own three-stringed instruments, documented here in Three-Stringed Theory. Additionally, the Education Program offered 14 adult classes on how to safely and creatively work with used building materials. Over 70 participants enrolled in hands-on topics such as “Basic Carpentry for Women” and “Build and Play a Cajon (Peruvian Box Drum).” 

The Village Coalition, a network of urban villages and their allies representing Portland Metro’s houseless community, got its start at the ReBuilding Center in March. We hosted 25 meetings fueled by generous food donations from Mississippi Pizza. When the Village Coalition meetings recently grew beyond the size of the RBC’s conference room with the involvement of many village residents and allies, we facilitated a move to the Albina Youth Opportunity School

Loki with her tiny house built in the RBC lumberyard

Loki with her tiny house built in the RBC lumberyard

The Village Coalition inspired an innovative private sector initiative to build hard tents or “pods” for Portland houseless communities, 18 of which were built in the final quarter of 2016. With the incredible support of City Repair, Congregation Beth Israel, Castaway Portland, Tivnu, Oregon Tradeswomen, Constructing Hope, Portland Youth Builders, Natural Felt, National Urban Housing, Center for Public Interest and Design, and many more—including Andy Olshin and the Village Coalition—we will build up to 100 more pods in 2017. The ReBuilding Center continues to supply building materials (along with the help of Lowe’s and Parr Lumber) for this initiative as well as transporting the tiny houses around town.

During the summer, nearly 100 individuals came together to advise the RBC as it considers re-developing the north end of its property. That report has provided RBC with the invaluable wisdom of the community as we seek to leverage our space to the fullest potential to expand our mission to strengthen the social and environmental vitality of our community. 

ReBuilding Center Japan in Nagano

ReBuilding Center Japan in Nagano

An extraordinary spoken word event at the Mississippi Street Fair; the construction of a new reused materials studio at XRAY.fm; the opening of ReBuilding Center Japan; the first of a new annual Labor Day community celebration at the RBC, complete with the lumberyard music stage (this year's event honored the retirement and service to community of long-time Community Outreach Manager Linda Hunter); and so much more—we could not and would not have realized so much with the support of so many of you.  

And let’s not forget Lean Portland, an extraordinary group of professionals who are giving up their Saturdays pro bono to help the RBC become a more efficient and effective organization to better meet the needs of our guests and our community. When you visit our store in 2017, you’ll notice “lean system” efforts underway!

With the support of the Energy Trust of Oregon, we converted to LED lighting. With the support of the Autzen Foundation and the Portland Development Commission, we were able to undertake a feasibility study to explore the expansion of our space and mission. With the support of the Collins Foundation, we are well prepared for the challenges of successful implementation of the deconstruction ordinance. 

We deconstructed 20 homes and dozens of kitchens, garages, bathrooms, and barns in 2016. These projects diverted nearly 3,000 tons of materials from the landfill; saved more than 40,000 gallons of water; and prevented some 500 tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere. 

None of this would have been possible without the assistance of nearly 2,000 volunteers, providing us with more than 20,000 hours of your precious time. This was your year—from ushering people to their seats at York last March, to repairing homes in June, cheering on the spoken word in July, and building sleeping pods in the fall. And each and every day, processing materials, putting them on the store shelves, and taking them off the shelves again to give to our guests. Our customers, volunteers, supporters, and staff—the ReBuilding Center community without whom we would not even be here. 

We may remember 2016 as an extraordinarily difficult year—one that may well change the trajectory of our nation and our planet. In what may be challenging times ahead, do not forget to recall what you accomplished this year—with others, in community. You’re amazing. Thank you.

Cover photo by: Carlyle Ellis

January Volunteer Opportunities

Get involved with the Portland reuse community this January with the Rebuilding Center! Learn more about reuse and remodeling with the Portland Build, Remodel, and Landscape Show; help build community with Hands On Greater Portland; gain fire safety skills with the Red Cross; add to your resume with Rebuilding Center internships; join the newsletter team; do some cathartic denailing while salvaging materials for reuse; and represent RBC's DIY spirit tabling at the Portland Fix-It-Fair. Check out these amazing opportunities below!

Join us in honoring the legacy of Dr. King through meaningful service to our community.

Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve.
— Martin Luther King Jr.


Need some home modeling inspiration? Join the ReBuilding Center at the:

Portland Build, Remodel, and Landscape Show
January 6-8
at the Oregon Convention Center

Volunteer for a shift at our table to share ReBuilding Center info with attendees. Before or after your shift, see the latest design trends and talk to experts about energy efficiency, home automation, windows, and much more. 

Volunteers that table at the Build, Remodel, and Landscape Show will actively engage those attending the show as a representative of the ReBuilding Center. Event volunteers will answer questions, provide information, and be a general steward for our organization's mission of "Inspiring people to value and discover existing resources to strengthen the social and environmental vitality of communities." 

Already a volunteer?

New to volunteering at the ReBuilding Center?

Email volunteer@rebuildingcenter.org with any questions.

Building Community Through Reuse
Social Night

Are you interested in making new friends in the community while volunteering? Look no further than a Hands On event at the Rebuilding Center.

January 12th
6:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M.
at the ReBuilding Center
3625 N Mississippi Ave

Come to the Rebuilding Center to help with hands-on projects while working with donated materials. Afterwards, head across the street with fellow participants to StormBreaker Brewing for a post-volunteering happy hour! Sign up through Hands On Greater Portland's website by clicking on the link below:

MLK Day of Service: Save Lives by Installing Fire Alarms

ReBuilding Center and Red Cross are teaming up to keep people safe in 2017!

January 14th
8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
at the ReBuilding Center
3625 N Mississippi Ave

You can help save lives in the following ways:

  1. Documenter: The documenter should have good handwriting and attention to detail for completing paperwork. The documenter will document the services provided, detailing the number that were in the home before the team perform their installation, the number of Red Cross alarms installed, if a plan was developed, and basic demographics information about the residents in each household. The documenter in addition to completing paperwork will also maintain an accurate count of total alarms installed, homes visited, and other details.
  2. Educator: The educator will share fire prevention and response information with the residents. They will encourage/assist the residents with creating a home-fire evacuation plan. The educator will also provide residents with information about actions they should take when an earthquake occurs and information about what should be included in their disaster supplies kit.
  3. Installer (minimum 16 yrs/old): The installer will inspect existing alarms to verify that they are working, their age, and their placement. The installer will offer to replace alarms that are 5-years or older with new alarms. They will also install additional alarms and place them based on recommendations provided by the Oregon State Fire Marshal.

From the Red Cross website:

The goal? To install 1,000 smoke alarms in homes that need them in the Boise/ Eliot neighborhood of NE Portland. This is our region’s largest home fire campaign to date, which means we need you! Mark your calendar and please join us to volunteer, along with your friends, family and neighbors, to help with this major Centennial Celebration event!

Sign up for a role that looks interesting to you and you'll get contacted by Sam, Red Cross's volunteer coordinator about details for the day! If you are unable to make the entire day, still sign up - we can use your help! If you are new to the ReBuilding Center and would like to volunteer, select what "type" of volunteer you are on our website and fill out an application so you can attend an orientation and get into action! Login into Volgistics and locate the opportunity in the directory and sign up today by clicking on the link below:

DeNailing Every Tuesday and Saturday

Every Tuesday and Saturday, come on out to help us divert materials from the waste stream! You'll team up with Pete Heim, our Site Supervisor to rid salvaged boards of it's nail-esque componentry and turn them into salvaged building materials for reuse (that could end up being used in a volunteer-led project to build tiny houses for the houseless)!

Every Tuesday & Saturday
9:00 am. - 1:00 p.m.
1001 NE 2nd Ave (near the Rose Quarter Max transit stop)

Dress for the weather. We will provide all necessary safety equipment and tools. If we end up canceling, only those that have scheduled (either online, or by contacting Dave) will be notified. Login into Volgistics and locate the opportunity in the directory and sign up today by clicking on the link below:


The Fix-It Fair is a free City of Portland event where you can learn simple ways to save money and connect with resources. Join your neighbors and talk to the experts about how to spend less and stay healthy.

January 28th
9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
George Middle School
10000 N Burr Ave, Portland

Event volunteers will answer questions, provide information, and be a general steward for our organization's mission of "Inspiring people to value and discover existing resources to strengthen the social and environmental vitality of communities."

If you are new to the ReBuilding Center and would like to volunteer, select what "type" of volunteer you are on our website and fill out an application so you can attend an orientation and get into action! Login and sign up by clicking on the link below:


Do you have an interest nonprofit work, data analysis, media creation, or social media? Do you want to gain experience using data analysis and marketing tools to boost nonprofit efforts while increasing your business, technical, and marketing skills? If so, apply for the Digital Marketing Analysis internship or the Media Content Creator internship with the ReBuilding Center! For more information, email RBC Marketing & Communication Ashley Howe at  ashley@rebuildingcenter.org or apply online: 


Every week, the newsletter team meets with Ashley, the ReBuilding Center’s Communications & Marketing Manager. Together, the team writes stories, carries out interviews, takes photos, and puts together the ReBuilding Center’s e-newsletters. These newsletters are great portfolio/resume builders!

The newsletter team is comprised of volunteers just like you! This is your newsletter, written by volunteers, for the ReBuilding Center community.

Sign up if you have an interest in:

  • Photography/Videography
  • Journalism/Social Media
  • Sustainability
  • Creative Reuse
  • Graphic Design

Channel your creativity into serving our mission to build community through reuse!

To sign up schedule yourself by entering in your login information here:

Then click on "My Schedule," select any Thursday, click "Schedule me," select any time between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., hit "Continue", confirm, and voila!

Alternatively, you can email Ashley Howe, the Communications & Marketing Manager at ashley@rebuildingcenter.org.

Employee Spotlight: Pete Heim!

Pete Heim
Volunteer Site Supervisor

Interviewed by Brendan Fitzpatrick

Employed at the Rebuilding Center 2008- Present (with some time off in between)

Pete was born in Portland and attended school nearby on Interstate and Going St. After graduating from Central Catholic High School he moved to Chicago for what was thought to be a couple year stay. That couple years turned into eighteen before he returned home. His folks owned an antique shop on Killingsworth and Michigan where he was in charge of fixing and gluing furniture. Pete was frequently here at the Rebuilding Center looking for mahogany or oak or any kind of wood pieces. He says he “was down here every day just bugging the people.” One day, Angel was working and she informed Pete that there was a job opening and he should apply because he was “here all the time anyway”. He didn’t at first, but when his folks were in the process of closing down their antique store (and Angel kept asking) he finally put in an application. Two days later Tom, the warehouse manager, called him for an interview. When Pete came down, he sat down with Tom and Angel and they all just started laughing together because they had all known each other for so long. Needless to say, the interview was brief and pretty much started and ended with a “when can you start”. 

He has a background as both a carpenter and as an antique dealer, which is also an asset as an employee because he can identify anything in the store. He has been using materials from the Rebuilding Center to build all kinds of things himself. Pete says he enjoys building a variety furniture and art projects from materials found at The Rebuilding Center. Some of his projects include book cases, dressers and big trestle tables (before everyone started doing it). He is proud of an 8 foot long table he made for his home built out of oak from cabinet doors that also has eight drawers. He has even sold a small table he made to a woman from Michigan who had it shipped to her home there. Pete says he might be bringing down a couple of art projects to show for the opening of the commons. One project he plans on bringing is a chess set that he has shown here before, and the other he describes as “just a box, but that’s all I’m gonna say. But when you see it…”

He has seen the Rebuilding Center and neighborhood grow over the years not only as an employee but also as a customer and resident. He views sustainability as a way of life and that everything can be reused. Pete reminds us that with just a little imagination you can build anything with materials found here. He likes to let the volunteers know about the fun of reuse and reminds them that the materials also have history as well. When asked if he had any words of wisdom for us today he tells us, “Be aware of where you’re at and what you’re doing because if you start paying attention to what you’re looking at you will see things that you can use”.

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