Many longtime volunteers and supporters of the former Habitat for Humanity ReStore say they are "appalled" and "disgusted" that leftover merchandise is going to the landfill.
The local ReStore closed after Habitat for Humanity Brandon was disaffiliated last June by the national organization.
The ReStore, which took donations and sold items to fund local Habitat homebuilding projects, recently held closing out sales over two weekends to get rid of inventory.
"It’s awful," said Cheryl Tripp, a former Habitat volunteer who ran the ReStore for more than two years. "They should’ve waited a while and had at least a couple months of clearance, not two weekends. That store was huge. There’s no way they were going to get rid of stuff in two weekends."
Tripp remembers the ReStore helping many newcomers to Brandon and others who were down on their luck.
"We had house wares, we had building supplies, we had furniture, electronics, everything you needed pretty much was there," she said.
Tripp said the local organization was full of dedicated volunteers and that she misses it terribly.
"I miss helping the people … It was just a fun place for the volunteers, and we had such a camaraderie with the partner families that did their sweat equity hours and got to know them very well," she said. "It was a wonderful place to be."
Arnold Grambo had been volunteering with Habitat Brandon ever since it was established in 1995. In 17 years, 22 homes were built in Brandon, plus 14 condos in Massey Manor.
Habitat Canada decided to close the Brandon operation after "minimum operating standards were not being met." Grambo admits the volunteer-run organization had challenges keeping up with some administrative tasks, but said they were "minor" issues.
Grambo is upset that the ReStore merchandise is being "thrown out by the garbage bin full."
"It’s not only immoral, but I think it’s almost borderline illegal," he said. "These people gave stuff in good faith, expecting some results. Well, the result is in the landfill. That’s wrong."
Last year, Grambo said the ReStore made more than $125,000 to put toward housing.
"The way we build homes, using free labour, we could build two homes for that," Grambo said. "They shut the place down and it was hardly operating all summer."
Volunteer Vern Gilbertson said he is concerned about what will happen with the funds raised by the Brandon affiliate, now that it is closed.
"There’s going to be a million and a half to $2 million surplus," he said. "I’m worried that the boss will transfer those funds out of Brandon and the poor people of Brandon are going to suffer because there won’t be housing built with those funds."
David Morris, a project manager with Habitat Canada, said they managed to sell or give away much of the inventory from the ReStore.
"We had a massive closing out sale and moved a whole lot," he said. "So what we’re left now dealing with are some of the things that … people didn’t want to buy. We’ve also been delivering some stuff to various social service agencies."
Morris said the items left over are things that have "probably been sitting here for a long while and … is headed to a dumpster."
Morris said one of the challenges with every ReStore is some donations are accepted "when it perhaps shouldn’t be."
As for the funds, Morris said the money that was raised stays with Habitat Brandon.
"There will be a transfer first to Habitat Canada, and then to Habitat Manitoba and all of the proceeds from Habitat Brandon will be earmarked to building in Brandon," Morris said.