Volunteers at the heart of New Richmond ReStore
Six months ago, New Richmond ReStore manager Andy Scheiderer hired Chris Chase-Schaehrer as his new assistant manager.
Chase-Schaehrer, a single mother of two with a degree in Special Education from St. Cloud State University and a "mini MBA" from the University of St. Thomas in non-profit management and fundraising, jumped at the opportunity. She says it was, "because of the reputation of the organization, Habitat for Humanity." It appears to have been the right opportunity for the right person.
A big part of Chase-Schaehrer's job is to educate people about the relationship of a ReStore to the house building operation of Habitat for Humanity. The first ReStore was opened in 1992 in Austin, Texas, by a Habitat for Humanity affiliate as a way to supplement the budget of their local house building operation by creating a retail outlet to sell building materials.
The New Richmond ReStore employs two full-time people, Manager Andy Scheiderer and a donations manager, and two part-time people, Chase-Schaehrer and a pick-up manager. The rest of the labor is provided by an army of volunteer all working an average of two to six hours a week.
Chase-Schaehrer's job description reads assistant manager in charge of marketing, however after six months on the job, you can add the following responsibilities; recruitment, volunteer coordination, business building, community outreach and promotion. Not that she's complaining, just the opposite, she "loves it."
Chase-Schaehrer will be the first to tell you, working in the non-profit world; it's always about more than "the job." To hear her explain it, marketing the St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a pervasive endeavor connected to almost every aspect of ReStore operations.
Hang around a ReStore long enough and you're likely to hear the mantra, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. A store initially solicits and collects goods and materials donated by companies and individuals from the community for resale. The ReStore turns around and sells that donated merchandise which ends up being purchased by other members of the community at very reasonable prices helping those community members, "reuse" that merchandise.
The mechanics of that process requires manpower provided by volunteers from the community, including mentally and physically challenged members of the community.
Chase-Schaehrer is constantly recruiting new volunteers to work at the store and wants everyone to know they are welcome. Volunteers at her store include students fulfilling their community service requirements, Boy Scouts and church groups.
Across the country, 30 to 40 percent of ReStore volunteers have some sort of disability. People working and volunteering at the store come from many walks of life and each and every one is capable in their own way of contributing to the success of the store, just like volunteers Ron Skaggs and Jeremy Langer.
Skaggs is easy to identify in his bright green ReStore T-shirt as he busily works at taking apart the copper wrappings of a small electric motor. Ask Ron and he'll tell you, he specializes in just about everything.
"I sweep, mop, vacuum, take things apart and put price tags on. I help people find things," he said. "It makes me happy."
Skaggs admits he likes his bosses and is very comfortable working at the ReStore. Prior to moving to New Richmond in 1993, Skaggs worked at a grocery store, a plating company and for the county when he lived in Milwaukee. He says what's great about working at the ReStore is, "the variety and you get to teach others."
Besides working at the store from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursday, he also volunteers at The Deerfield playing cards and talking with the residents. Skaggs saw the ReStore one day riding by on his bicycle and he recognized the Habitat for Humanity logo and right away knew what the organization was about.
From his wheelchair, Jeremy Langer, 34, uses pliers to work on a light fixture donated to the ReStore.
He says his specialties include, "assembly, hanging things, disassembly, figuring things out and recycling."
Accompanied by his job coach Joan, Langer works at the store on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
"They keep me on my toes and I come home pretty dirty," he adds with a smile proud of his hard day's work.
After his skills were evaluated by the DVR (Department of Vocational Rehabilitation), Langer found the ReStore. He's been volunteering for nearly three months now. He sees himself as an "independent worker, kind of an all-around repairman."
He says of his approach to working at the store, "I just kind of wing it." He offers this advice to other potential volunteers "wing it and hold onto your britches. You never know what you're getting into."
The heartbeat of a ReStore is its people.
"It's an emotional job," Chase-Schaehrer says. "These guys, Ron and Jeremy, mean the world to me. They are exceptional human beings."
The ReStore is located at 901-B N. Knowles Ave. in New Richmond. Their hours are: Wednesday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Donations are accepted during regular store hours and by appointment at other times. If donations need to be picked up, call the ReStore at 715-246-4441 to schedule a pick up. To learn more about Habitat's ReStore or to volunteer in the store, contact Chase-Schaehrer at 715-246-4441 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.