At MacHabitat we never stop learning! We attend quarterly networking meetings and our annual, statewide conference. We also try to get to the international conference in Georgia that happens every two years as well. Closer to home, we also take field trips, and such was the case this past August. Six staff members visited the Bend ReStore to learn the details of their successful operation, and we learned a lot.

One of the challenges facing any ReStore is processing what often seems a torrent of donations. Don’t get me wrong; we always want more. But it can be a little overwhelming when there is a line of cars, trucks, and trailers, bristling with everything from a refrigerator to a set of kitchen cabinets, to a sofa, to twenty gallons of paint. And once the vehicles are unloaded and the donor receives a donation receipt, there is the work of sorting, cleaning, sometimes repairing, always pricing, and then taking the items into the store. The Bend facility showed us labor saving aids like toilet or window carts, and methods like immediate sorting, then storing until there is time to process.

But for me the chief lesson may have been “The donor is more important than the donation.” What does that mean and how is the philosophy implemented? It means a primary goal is building long-term relationships in the community. No, we really don’t want a package of disposable diapers or a Mr. Coffee machine; those aren’t part of our merchandise mix. But there are times it’s best to take the items, knowing we can pass them along to City Outreach Ministries or Saint Vincent de Paul. Rarely, we’ll simply dispose of unwanted items for the convenience of our donor. It costs us some money, but the under the proper circumstances it’s the right thing to do. Without happy donors, there wouldn’t be a ReStore. And without ReStores, Habitat would certainly build fewer homes.