Employee Spotlight

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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