The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality awarded Forest Grove's Habitat for Humanity ReStore with a $10,000 grant as part of an effort to support job and economic needs in the wake of COVID-19.
The grant was one of 13 totaling $125,000 awarded, June 17, to businesses throughout the state in Oregon's repair and reuse industry. The DEQ's 2020 Workforce Development Repair and Reuse grants provide up to $10,000 to each awardee to support projects that help protect Oregon's environment, public health, and economy.
"We are ecstatic to report that this year's pool of applicants and grant proposals was the most competitive yet, because it underscores Oregon's shared commitment to producing and managing materials more responsibly," Marie Diodati, Materials Management grant manager said. "The applicants represented a wide range of communities and many grantees provide direct service to historically marginalized populations. With these grants, DEQ can engage more Oregon communities in sustainable materials management practices - which focus on using and reusing resources more productively and sustainably."
ReStore has been hit hard by COVID-19. Like many businesses, they were forced to make significant staffing cuts, in addition to seeing donations significantly decrease. Due to those hardships and in the wake of receiving the grant, the store hopes to return to some semblance of normalcy as soon as possible.
"The biggest thing that we're hoping this grant will do is help us to get back to our regular days and hours," ReStore Executive Director Virginia Ohler said. "So we'd like to get back to services as quickly as we possibly can."
The Forest Grove ReStore sells used and donated building materials, appliances, furniture, and other assorted items at prices well under comparable retail pricing. After covering operating expenses of the store, all profits go to West Tuality Habitat for Humanity to build and repair homes in the greater Forest Grove area. It's that commitment to aiding the community that made it such a desirable recipient of the DEQ grant.
"They did a really good job of building the case for what their need was, and were focused on getting their operations back up to 100 percent after the effects of the COVID shutdown," Material Management's Babe O'Sullivan said. "They were able to make the case that the work that they were doing was directly aligned with our objective, and that was to get furniture, building material, other kinds of home goods back out into the community.
"They also serve a part of the state that may not have the same economic opportunities as some of the urban corridor cities, and that was important to us to focus on some of the specific needs in more rural communities of the state."
All of the state.
This year's recipients reach all corners of Oregon, including Klamath Falls, Vale, Bend, the Willamette Valley and the Portland metropolitan area, which was undoubtedly a goal of the DEQ.
"That was definitely one of our objectives this year," O'Sullivan said. "We recognize that the needs and opportunities are a little different across the state, and we wanted to try and address as many of those as possible."
ReStore was forced to furlough 95% of its workforce as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ohler said that staffing is undeniably where ReStore will focus the newly received funding.
"This money will be completely allocated to staffing," Ohler said. "We're trying to get all of our former employees back, and if that's not possible, bring in others."
In addition, Ohler said donations have significantly decreased in recent months, and furniture repair and job training was shut down. Considering the ReStore is a primary source of funding for the homebuilding and repair endeavors of Habitat for Humanity, that has had a considerable impact as well.
"We've been in some pretty dark days," Ohler said. "But in that regard, we're in the same boat as everybody else.
"We're all in this together."
Editor's note: Due to a typographic error, a previous version of this story misspelled the name of the organization affiliated with the ReStore in one reference. It is West Tuality Habitat for Humanity. The story has been corrected.
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