As Habitat for Humanity continues its cleanup of what remains of the Brandon chapter of the organization, former volunteers and supporters are decrying how the contents of the Brandon ReStore have been disposed.
The Sun reported last week that 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, so the building could be sold.
“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.”
Arnold Grambo, who had been volunteering with Habitat Brandon since it was first established in 1995, said he was upset that the ReStore merchandise was being thrown out “by the garbage bin full” and went so far as to call the action not only immoral but “borderline illegal.”
Frankly, we find it rather difficult to believe that Habitat for Humanity Canada would cavalierly and thoughtlessly dump the contents of the ReStore into the Brandon landfill, as these critics attest.
The thought of so much leftover materials being unloaded into the landfill — items that could still be used or purchased — isn’t particularly agreeable to anyone with a rational mind.
We don’t disagree that more efforts could have been made to sell off the contents of the ReStore — two weekends seems just too short to accomplish such a task.
However, before anyone begins vilifying outside Habitat groups too strongly, we suggest they consider the fact that volunteers in other parts of the province and country are skilled in operating Habitat projects and ReStores as well. It would be churlish to assume that Brandon volunteers know how to run a Habitat group — or close one down — better than the national organization.
The fact that Brandon has the dubious distinction of being the only community to ever see a Habitat for Humanity chapter be disaffiliated must be taken into consideration. We have little reason to believe that this move by the national organization was done lightly, or without just cause, even though Grambo insists the Brandon chapter faced only minor challenges.
We also note that the president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Canada, Stewart Hardacre, felt it necessary to address community concerns about the ReStore in a letter to the editor, which appeared in Saturday’s paper.
“The store was sorted through and organized thanks to months of effort from our many volunteers,” Hardacre wrote. “Where we were able to salvage or sell items, they were salvaged and sold.
“It is our practice — and a great source of fundraising — to make sure no housing contents go to waste. This was the case in Brandon, just as it is in every community where Habitat for Humanity and ReStores operate across Canada.”
He also said the money made from the items sold will remain in Brandon and that efforts are being made to create a new Brandon chapter as soon as possible.
In the wake of the collapse of the Brandon chapter, hard feelings were inevitable. While we do not doubt the dedication of former Brandon volunteers, or the fact they are very unhappy with the situation as it stands, we find Hardacre’s explanation to be, at the very least, credible.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 22, 2012