Together, Donald Otterbein and Warren Petersen have logged in over 800 volunteer hours at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in New Brighton. When asked what gives them staying power, they both answer the same, "It's the people."
Otterbein’s public service career in the military and Department of Corrections naturally led to a retirement in community service. “If you are a people person, ReStore is the place. The staff make it easy, and the volunteers and customers make it fun,” he says.
Petersen had no interest in swinging a hammer, but working in a retail store sounded interesting. During his ReStore tenure, Otterbein has unloaded donation trucks, stocked supplies and organized departments. Currently, he can be found working the cash register at checkout.
Peterson started his Habitat volunteer stint as a carpenter working on one of the homes sponsored by his former employer General Mills. “I’ve learned a lot of skills that I now put to use around my own house,” says Peterson who typically busies himself at the ReStore by helping customers pick out the perfect sink or creating home displays out on the floor. “My biggest takeaway from volunteering at Habitat is the number of people who are in need of affordable home options. It is much bigger than I ever expected.” Peterson hopes to be a part of the ReStore for many years to come. “The customers are great, and I look forward to Wednesdays.”
Often referred to as a home improvement outlet, the ReStore draws in donations from a large community of homeowners, building companies and contractors. Donated building materials, supplies, home fixtures and furniture are then repurposed and sold at deep discounts to the community. Everyone is welcome to shop, but volunteers, donors and Habitat homeowners get additional discounts. The program reduces landfill waste and makes the next home remodel or Pinterest-inspired art piece an affordable reality. Merchandise is high-quality with many items being brand new due to miss-orders, miss-cuts or redesigns.
Keeping the ReStore humming at full capacity requires a steady crew of 25-30 volunteers to donate 130 hours every month. Snacks and coffee flow freely, and there is always something for everyone. People volunteer at the ReStore because they have a skill to share, a drive for creative expression or an itch to learn something new. Mentoring, community, creative learning and active engagement make up the ReStore culture and climate.
No prior building experience or heavy lifting is required of ReStore volunteers. Work schedules are flexible, but 3-4 hours shifts are preferred. Online sign up is easy and even more volunteer positions will be available as Habitat gears up to open a second ReStore in South Minneapolis in the fall of 2016.
Contribute by Jenn Hyvonen. Jenn is a writer, marketer and project manager who is passionate about storytelling that ignites action. By moving beyond reason, Hyvonen creates stories that emotionally connect people, places and products. Keep the conversation going at HyvoCreates.com.