From Student to Successful DIY-er

Joanna and her friend, Piper, recently took our DIY Plumbing Repairs + Replacements class, and within a few weeks of the class, her toilet broke! Fortunately enough, they were able to practice their newly learned skills.

Joanna recapped their experience repairing the toilet to us. As with many repairs, there are always some hurdles. The first hurdle they faced was mismatched rough-ins. The new toilet had a 12-inch rough-in, but because the repair was happening in an older home, the outlet was a little bit further away from the wall with a 14-inch rough-in.

Side note: the toilet rough-in is the distance from the wall behind the toilet to the center of the toilet’s outlet pipe.

The second hurdle was removing a metal support rod that went from the very old toilet into the floor. They had to remove the rod and then saw off some of the remnants because the new toilet would not fit over it. Joanna concluded, “All in all it was a very empowering experience and we remembered all the good tips we learned in class.”

Check out the process photos below. Thanks for sharing your story, Joanne!

Accomplishments like these are just what we hope for at the ReBuilding Center! We love hearing students’ stories and encourage you to share them with us anytime at

Our DIY Plumbing Repairs + Replacements class is offered at least once a month (both regular and Women’s Only). Students learn how to not only do what Joanne and Piper did, but to also repair leaky faucets, running toilets, cracked fixtures, dripping drains, etc. Additionally, the Portland Water Bureau generously provides water-saving kids for each student! Check out our education page to learn more.

"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.

Driving Tips: Avoid + Handle Hydroplaning

By: The Driving Team (&

At a recent Driving team meeting, during a safety check-in, a driver shared that he experienced a scary hydroplane situation in his car. In classic driving-team form, this turned into a robust conversation about the do’s and dont’s of driving to prevent hydroplaning and support a safe outcome if it happens to you:

Image via

Image via

What is hydroplaning? Hydroplaning happens when a sheet of water wedges itself between the road and your tire, preventing the tire’s tread from properly gripping the road, which can lead to a loss of control, steering, and braking. While road conditions and tire health both increase the risk of hydroplaning, the main perpetrators are speed and water depth. Crash Forensics says that you’re at risk when moving above speeds above 45 MPH and when water depth on the road is at least 1/10th of an inch.

Unfortunately, we can’t stop our cars and break out the rulers, so the safe bet would be to treat all wet roads as potential hydroplaning hazard zones. And while it is possible to identify the factors above, the truth is that hydroplaning often strikes unexpectedly, creating a scary and hectic few moments for everyone involved—especially those who are unprepared or unaware of the indicating factors. Taking a few precautionary steps can help you avoid hydroplaning and handle it in an emergency.

Tips to Avoid Hydroplaning

  • Don’t use cruise control in the rain to stay more in tune with the conditions at hand.

  • Make sure your tires have adequate tread and are properly inflated; rotate tires and replace as needed. 

  • Avoid standing water and puddles.

  • Drive at a safe speed. The faster you drive, the harder it is for your tires to push water away.

  • Pay attention to the cars in front of you. The car in front of you can help you understand the condition of the road. If you see excessive amounts of water coming from their tires, they may be driving in a lane that’s holding excessive water. In this case, you may want to slow down or make a lane change. Always maintain a safe, proper distance.

  • Try to drive in tracks created by the vehicle(s) ahead of you.

If You End up Hydroplaning
Sometimes, even when you do take every possible precaution, you can still end up hydroplaning. If your vehicle does start to hydroplane, follow these steps:

  • Don’t panic or overreact—stay calm.

  • Don’t slam on the brakes.

  • Ease your foot off the accelerator and apply brakes gently if necessary to avoid further loss of control. In the case your vehicle does not have anti-lock brakes (check your manual), try to avoid braking altogether. If you must brake, “pump” the brake pedal gently.

  • Maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel and keep yourself pointed forward, or in the direction of the road, and be prepared to compensate when the tires regain control.

  • Be careful not to over-steer, as your momentum can throw you off course or into a spin.

  • Whether you have front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, you always want to maintain the course of the road. This may take a few turns of the steering wheel in either direction.

  • Take a deep breath and calm your nerves.

“Safety is all about information; most safety issues are a result of not knowing. Inform yourself as much as needed for any task you take on. This alone will reduce your safety hazards. Combine this with a cautionary mindset, and you can take on any task with a good outcome. - Josh, ReBuilding Center General Manager


By: Alex Rhodes (ReBuilding Center Salvage Specialist)

“Green”—a word I have been grappling with and redefining for years, it seems. Most commonly thought of as a color…the color of so many beautiful plants and landscapes, but especially known in our society as the color of money. What I’ve found is that “green” is a catch-all buzzword for the movement for changing consciousness towards the environment, particularly where it relates to the economy. It is purposefully vague and has caught on in many types of industries such as small businesses, construction, technology, education, energy, and even agriculture. If you’re a company or nonprofit in one of these industries, there are a variety of incentives to market yourself as “Green.”

But what does it mean for a job to be Green? Well, let’s take for example our organization, the ReBuilding Center. We are striving to give our staff living wages, strong benefits, and a socially progressive culture in our workplace. We are strongly tied to the construction industry while being leaders in environmentally conscious practices with our deconstructions services as well as our store, both which promote the idea of Reuse. In other words, we bring social, economic, and environmental justice into our way of operating. All of this makes us the textbook example of an organization that is Green. 

The Green Workforce Collaborative (GWC) seeks to guide the most historically marginalized young adults in Black and Native communities of the Portland area into stable, decent-paying jobs. Currently, these good jobs are overwhelmingly Green jobs. As you may be aware, Black and Native people have been oppressed for way too long and we need to reverse the trend. There are traumas, lack of a positive network, and scarcity of intergenerational wealth that disproportionately follows all of us whether we like it or not.

How the GWC plans to do this is by raising environmental awareness, a skill many employers say potential employees lack. During a five-week long program that utilizes the nationally-accredited Roots of Success Curriculum (piloted in 2018), the “Green Workforce Academy” provides a down-to-earth understanding of the environmental issues that affect us all.  To bring the subject closer to home, we spend half of the program going out and meeting with potential employers to engage in hands-on events. The job doesn’t end there.  We serve as mentors as graduates transition into their new careers and provide them with references and guidance.  


As a young adult from a diverse, low-income background who has taken the unbeaten path of studying the issues around the environment, working at a Green job such as with the ReBuilding Center, I have never been so certain of the direction I’m headed. Understanding the bigger picture of how the environment affects us has played a central role in changing my life. I can already see it starting to change my peers participating in the Green Workforce Academy program. Participating in this project has been deeply fulfilling, and I foresee the Green Workforce Collaborative having the potential to be a model in job creation moving forward as the Green wave rolling over our country brings about an economy that reflects the realities of our environment.

"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.

Community Opportunities

There is never a lack of activities and opportunities happening in our community. Below are just a few we recommend checking out!

Upcoming Repair Fairs

Reuse your old things by getting them repaired by volunteers! There will be people that can help with small appliances, electronic toys, clothing, and jewelry!

Repair Fair @ PlanetCon - Quatama Elementry (Hillsboro) | January 12th

Repair Fair @ Lake Oswego United Methodist Church | January 12th

Repair Fair @ Cedar Mill Library | February 2nd

NECN Community Grants

Northeast Coalition of Neighbhorhoods and the office of Civic and Community Life partner to provide grants to neighborhood and community organizations working to make NE Portland a stronger, more inclusive community. The deadline to apply is January 15th. Learn more, here.

Portland YouthBuilders

Portland YouthBuilders provides job training in construction or technology and assistance in finishing high school for those ages 17-24. Learn more about PYB and their Construction Bridge Program, here.

GLEAN Art Program

GLEAN is a five-month long program that invites artists to push the boundaries of material exploration. GLEAN is sponsored by Recology, Metro, and crackedpots. The deadline to apply is January 31st - learn more, here.

Youth Environmental Job Fair

Organized by the Youth Mentoring Collaborative, the Youth Environmental Fair will have hundreds of jobs for ages 14-25. Prep your resumes and learn more, here!

DeConstruction Highlight: Living Cully

A couple years ago, the Sugar Shack strip club closed, and the property at the corner of Northeast Cully Boulevard and North Killingsworth Street went up for sale. It was purchased by a group of community organizations who did not have a plan, but knew they wanted to transform the crime-ridden property into a space to cultivate community. Over time, the site was named Living Cully Plaza, and a plan was created through a collaboration spearheaded by Hacienda Community Development Corp. to build affordable apartments. During the time of planning, the property was immediately transformed into a community space used to organize the Cully community.

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The ReBuilding Center is one of many organizations who are involved in the Living Cully Plaza project. Our DeConstruction team was on site for a lumber skim, and the reclaimed lumber was brought to our store. Additional deconstruction took place by other organizations, with many materials going back into the Cully community for reuse.  

In early December, members of the Cully neighborhood and the Living Cully Community gathered to celebrate the Sugar Shack demolition. Many stories were told about the community’s ability to rally together and create change in the neighborhood. This project has been many years in the making, with an incredible amount of people and organizations dedicated to make a positive difference with the property.

To follow along with Living Cully progress, check out the Living Cully website.

The Impact of a Door

The ReBuilding Center welcomes requests for donations of used building and remodeling materials from grassroots projects and organizations that are inclusive and directly benefit the local community. One of these organizations, Community of Hope, located in North Portland, serves homeless, single-parent families. They provide shelter, classes, mentoring, and community life for 4-6 months while families heal from past trauma, build skills, and find stable jobs and homes. We recently caught up with Linda Jo, Community of Hope’s Program Director, to find out how a small donation has made a material difference at Community of Hope.

Community of Hope used wood facing and hinges we donated to help repair and stabilize bedroom doors. These small materials make a huge difference at their facility. Many of the families they serve come from living in an unconventional space, so having private space with a locking door is very significant. It helps to provide the families a sense of safety and gives them a secure space in which to leave their belongings.

Linda Jo explained Community of Hope’s awareness of the impact they have on the environment:

We want to make as small a carbon footprint as we can, and we want to get the materials we use as inexpensively as possible. Reusing materials is both cost effective and keeps things out of our landfill. We feel good to be part of the community who makes our world a better place in terms of environment as well as the people who live in it.

Check out these photos provided by Community of Hope. They have repaired the wood facing and hinges; paint is the next step. A huge thanks to Linda Jo and Community of Hope for sharing their story!

Today's Finds: January 2019

Today’s Finds is a weekly collection of some of our favorite items from the ReBuilding Center store! Are you signed up to receive the Finds via e-mail? Sign up here or, if you already receive our newsletter, update your preferences in MailChimp.

  • View the January 3rd finds, here.

  • View the January 17th finds, here.

  • View the January 24th finds, here.

  • View the January 31st finds, here.

Did you see an item on the Finds and claimed it for your own? We love seeing your reuse projects! Share with us at

Today's Finds: December 2018

Today’s Finds is a weekly collection of some of our favorite items from the ReBuilding Center store! Are you signed up to receive the Finds via e-mail? Sign up here or, if you already receive our newsletter, update your preferences in MailChimp.

  • View the December 13th finds, here.

  • View the December 20th finds, here.

Did you see an item on the Finds and claimed it for your own? We love seeing your reuse projects! Share with us at

Bay Area Salvage

 By: Chris Larsen (ReBuilding Center Process Improvement Coordinator) 

During the recent Thanksgiving break I had the opportunity to tour some of the Bay Area’s largest salvaged and reused building materials stores.  The reuse store landscape in the Bay Area is an eclectic mix of for profit and nonprofit organizations of a wide range of scales and with varied specialties. All the organizations I visited are united through the sale of used building materials and all have operated for over twenty years.  Here is a small snapshot of the Bay Area’s salvage landscape, which serves as information and inspiration for the ReBuilding Center’s operations in Portland:

This and That Building Materials

  • For Profit

  • Founded: 1997

  • San Pablo

Mission: “We are committed to preserving reusable building materials and offering them to our customers at a fraction of retail prices. Reduce Reuse and Recycle”

This and That Building Materials is an unpretentious, no frills, salvaged goods retailer. The organization has a huge stock of almost every building material imaginable. The stock is generally relatively common goods, with occasional high-end and antique materials. The organization is unique in having a dedicated employee and the accompanying machinery to produce new custom door jambs for used and new doors. Although for profit, the store had a decided community feeling with folks chatting and catching up while others were shopping around for the next deal.

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Urban Ore

  • For Profit 

  • Founded: 1980

  • Berkeley 

Mission- “To end the age of waste”       

If you're not for Zero Waste, how much waste are you for?”

Urban Ore is a Berkeley institution. The organization is beloved by Bay Area residence and is one of the largest salvage organizations I visited. Urban Ore runs a diverse business, selling reused building materials as well as antiques, home goods ranging from clothing to kitchenware, and arts and media ranging from books to creative reuse arts materials. The organization has a dedicated receiving department for sorting items before they reach the public, a metals recycling facility as well as a partnership with the local transfer station to allow gleaning of materials prior to disposal.

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Ohmega Salvage

  • For Profit

  • Founded: 1974

  • Berkeley

Mission- “Ohmega Salvage builds community through commerce by being a model of reuse, recycling and social exchange. We preserve old-quality items and resources for our customers.”

Ohmega Salvage is another such Berkeley Institution, perhaps even more so being founded in 1974. The organization appears in such famous counter cultural books as Lloyd Kahn’s alternative architectural work “Shelter”. Today the organization primarily deals in genuine antique and vintage architectural salvage, ranging from mantles and stained glass windows to door hardware and clawfoot tubs. They also do extensive rewiring of quality light fixtures.


Building Resources

  • Non-profit

  • Founded: 1994

  • San Francisco

Mission- “Building Resources is a not for profit organization dedicated to providing our community with low cost high quality materials, in a friendly, clean and organized setting.”

Building Resources is San Francisco’s only non-profit salvage store, and may be the singular affordable option for salvage in the City. Building Resources runs a small yard of diverse building salvage as well as an alternative glass recycling program making tumbled art glass, as well as housing an art gallery. In San Francisco’s increasingly dense, high-priced and fast-paced market, Building Resources stands as a beacon of equality, affordability, environmentalism, and creativity within the city.

Building Resources.png

The ReUse People

  • Non-profit

  • Founded: 1993

  • Oakland

Mission- “The ReUse People reduces the solid waste stream and changes the way the built environment is renewed by salvaging building materials and distributing them for reuse”

The ReUse people is a national organization doing deconstruction and sales of used building materials. It is also the cliffhanger in my visit to the Bay Area, as I did not manage through a combination of traffic and altered holiday hours to get into the store! So more to look forward to seeing soon.

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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.

Student Spotlight: Lynne Caldwell

By: Aaron Green

On occasion, our ReBuilding Center education staff has the privilege of receiving feedback from former students who let us know what they’ve been up to since taking a class with us. Sometimes those students are first-timers, and other times, as in Lynne Caldwell’s case, they’re six-time returning students. Wow! We asked Lynne if she’d be willing to let us interview her for our newsletter, and thankfully, she agreed! We hope you enjoy her story and find as much inspiration from it as we do.

A few years ago, before taking any carpentry classes with us, Lynne remembers wanting to try to build garden boxes. After selecting a few eight-foot boards from Home Depot and having them cut down to size, she grabbed her drill and got to work.

But, as she recalls, “I had no prior training… I had only used a hand saw but never a power saw of any kind.” Lynne did accomplish assembling her garden boxes, but afterward, she knew that having even a little more knowledge and access to power tools would propel her confidence forward during her next project.

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Today, six classes with the Education team later, Lynne reflects, “I have learned so much from these classes from simple things, like why the little metal end is on the tape measure, to big things like becoming confident using a miter saw. The miter saw education and confidence has been the biggest thing for me and has made a huge difference in the projects that I feel comfortable trying.”

Lynne has gone on to build benches for her home, a work table for her garage, and she even replaced her garbage disposal after taking one of our Plumbing Basics classes. “One of my proudest accomplishments was replacing our garbage disposal… This is something that I have paid a handyman to do in the past, and I did it myself. And no leaks!”

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Recently, Lynne built her very own coffee table out of a salvaged slab of basketball court wood. A self-proclaimed semi-regular at the ReBuilding Center, Lynne noticed a few big sections of basketball court material in the lumber yard one day. “I love basketball,” she tells us. “But I couldn’t think of what to do with the big sections. Then…I found smaller pieces broken down with the other flooring [and] I decided to try to make something.” Wanting the colored stripes natural to the old game flooring to show, Lynne did little to strip the wood after she got it home. She tells us that she miter-cut four pieces of wood to make a frame, and then glued those pieces together around the flooring. A couple layers of polyurethane later, and Lynne had herself a fantastic new table, made completely by herself.

When we asked Lynne what she might get up to next, she said, “I am always trolling the RBC for ideas [but] I plan to build a martial arts belt display for my son.” Lynne says she’s also working on a large bench for her porch. “I plan to add cushions too so that I can take a nap. Covered porch napping bench!”

We also asked Lynne what’s brought her back to the shop for classes so many times. She nearly brought us to tears when she said, “The instructors are really wonderful! I can’t say enough about how welcoming and patient they are. They show enthusiasm for their work, and they aren’t judgmental with beginner’s questions. As a middle-aged woman I was afraid of feeling intimidated in seeking out beginning educational opportunities in using tools. [These] instructors have always been super pleasant, organized, patient, and encouraging.”

Thanks, Lynne! We can’t wait to see pictures of your son’s martial arts belt display and, of course, the napping bench! We hope to see you in the shop again soon.

Today's Finds: November 2018

Today’s Finds is a weekly collection of some of our favorite items from the ReBuilding Center store! Are you signed up to receive the Finds via e-mail? Sign up here or, if you already receive our newsletter, update your preferences in MailChimp.

  • View the November 8th Finds here.

  • View the November 15th Finds here.

  • View the November 21st Finds here.

  • View the November 29th Finds here.

Did you see an item on the Finds and claimed it for your own? We love seeing your reuse projects! Share with us at

Give!Guide Announcement

Dear Friends, Neighbors, Family, and ReBuilders:

The ReBuilding Center has once again been selected to be a part of the Willamette Week's Give!Guide, a local effort that aims to highlight and support amazing Portland nonprofits by leveraging year-end giving.

How does it work?
Give HERE to the ReBuilding Center between now and December 31. Donations of $100 or more are matched 1:1 by our business partners, ¿Por Qué No? Taquería and Mississippi Pizza!

You will also be entered to win gift certificates to spend at the ReBuilding Center, either to attend a DIY class or to shop at our Store. And, if you're 35 or younger, you get a free pint from StormBreaker Brewing!

But wait, there's more!
If you donate on Big Give Days, you'll be entered to win HUUUGE Give!Guide-sponsored prizes like finger-licking ice-cream parties, luxurious shopping expeditions, spectacular getaways, VIP entertainment packages, and much more! 

Are you in?
Every dollar you donate from now until December 31 will help the ReBuilding Center keep tons of materials (literally!) out of the waste stream and in community hands; offer more and more relevant classes to makers, creators, and homeowners; support the building of more tiny houses for our houseless neighbors; continue creating pathways to green jobs for folks who have been excluded from making a living in the trades; and so much more. 

We thank you in advance for your ongoing support; without it, we couldn't do what we do every day. 

P.S. The ReBuilding Center is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization,
so all of your donations are tax deductible.

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Welcome to the Neighborhood!

By: Andrey Bodnar

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It all started off with the train being in the way. It was a Saturday and I was excited get to work for a special assignment, so I left my car at New Seasons and looked for Alison in front of OnPoint Community Credit Union’s new location.

Our mission was to pick up a donation check from OnPoint Community Credit Union, because they selected the ReBuilding Center to honor us as part of their Grand Opening celebration on Fremont and North Williams.

We talked with the OnPoint Community Credit Union team members and they told us about their work, and about how proud they are to work there because of all they do for the community. We shared about our work at the ReBuilding Center and what we do, from helping with houseless villages to Girls Build to our Day of Service. We also talked about all the building materials that flow through the ReBuilding Center and get diverted from the waste stream.  

There was even a face painter there… Alison and I talked about it and decided: “Sure, let’s do it.” So, we got our faces painted!  

After that, we went inside, and they presented us with the $1,000 check and took our pictures. We talked about the possibility of their staff coming here to volunteer, and I shared the idea that maybe some of our people to get a behind-the-scenes look at the banking world!  

Afterward, Alison and I walked back to the ReBuilding Center to put the check in the office for safe keeping until Monday.

Engaging with different businesses in the neighborhood is important, because the more connections we make, the better. Sure, this kind of outreach helps with fundraising, but more importantly it brings us together. The more we all know about each other’s organizations, the more we can accomplish together.

They were an amazing team, who clearly loved working there and it felt good being around. For the rest of the day I walked around with a dragon on my face!


Music + DeConstruction Intertwine

By: Mike Richards

Mike (1).jpg

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.”

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.  

Today's Finds: October 2018

Today’s Finds is a weekly collection of some of our favorite items from the ReBuilding Center store! Are you signed up to receive the Finds via e-mail? Sign up here or, if you already receive our newsletter, update your preferences in MailChimp.

  • View the October 11th Finds here.

  • View the October 18th Finds here.

  • View the October 25th Finds here.

Did you see an item on the Finds and claimed it for your own? We love seeing your reuse projects! Share with us at


Upcoming Community Events

There is never a lack of activities happening in our community. Below are just a few we recommend checking out!

Priced Out: Gentrification in Portland, Oregon Documentary Screening

  • Date: October 8th

  • Time: 6:30PM - 8:30PM

  • Location: Q Center Auditorium

The Q Center is hosting a screening of the documentary, “Priced Out”, with a discussion to follow the film. “Priced Out” is an investigative and personal look at how skyrocketing housing prices are displacing Portland's black community and reshaping the entire city.

BIG October Planting Party

  • Date: October 13th and 14th

  • Time: 10:00AM - 2:00PM

  • Location: Boise Eliot Nature Grove

The Boise Eliot Nature Grove is has over 500 plants to put in the ground and needs your help! Check out their website to sign-up to volunteer.

Alberta Abbey Neighborhood Party

  • Date: October 13th

  • Time: 10:00AM - 10:00PM

  • Location: 126 NE Alberta Street

Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives is hosting an Alberta Abbey Block Party featuring food, art, performances and vendors from NE Portland’s King and Humboldt neighborhoods. All are welcome!

North Portland Tool Library

  • Date: October 16th

  • Time: 6:00PM - 8:00PM

  • Location: Historic Kenton Firehouse

Repair PDX is partnering with the North Portland Tool Library to be on hand to repair your broken small appliances, bikes, garments, and other textiles.

Oregon Archives Crawl

  • Date: October 20th

  • Time: 11:00AM - 3:00PM

  • Location: Start at Oregon Historical Society, Multnomah County Library, or City of Portland Archives and Records Center

The Oregon Archives Crawl is back! Portland-Area Archives is partnering with over 30 locations to showcase how communities, beliefs, practices, and preferences have changed over the years.

Lost City, Living Memory: Vanport Oral History Screening + Exhibit

  • Date: October 21st

  • Time: 3:30PM - 5:00PM

  • Location: PSU Smith Memorial Student Union

Join the The Vanport Mosaic for a screening of “Lost City, Living Memories: Vanport Through the Voices of Its Residents” with special guests including former Vanport residents.

Family Photos and Community Memory

  • Date: October 28th

  • Time: 2:00PM - 4:00PM

  • Location: North Portland Library

The Black Life Experiential Research Group presents Family Photos and Community Memory to share photos, stories and conversation around the beauty and importance of family photography and community memories. For more information, send an email to

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