So many ways to ReUse It
Kansas store is a recycler, donor and provider
ReUse It Center in McPherson, Kansas, is a handy place to donate or buy building products, furniture or household accessories.
Donors and customers help people in need locally and around the world, because the center is a nonprofit that donates its proceeds to community organizations and Mennonite Central Committee.
Another significant benefit adds to the center’s value – something organizers weren’t necessarily thinking about in the beginning.
LaVon Ediger started weighing the need for a local thrift store to sell used building products while running a construction company that built mostly commercial structures.
He talked about it with fellow members of First Mennonite Church in McPherson. The discussions continued after LaVon retired, and led to the launch of ReUse It Center in November 2011.
It started in “a sizable building, but we outgrew it quickly,” LaVon said.
About 2½ years ago, the store moved into a larger space in a retail strip center, occupying about 30,000 square feet.
With his professional construction background, LaVon knows that used building materials are often thrown away.
“I realized how much went to landfills,” he said, “so second-life building materials was how we started” at ReUse It Center.
When customers visit the store now, they’ll also see appliances, furniture, light fixtures and even a few automotive parts.
“We’ve accepted a lot of items beyond building materials.”
Which types of merchandise are always in demand? “Appliances and cabinetry,” LaVon said – “older, newer, kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities. Tools are always needed too.”
ReUse It Center keeps expenses at a minimum. The store has only two paid staff members, and they are part-time managers.
Nearly 100 volunteers keep everything running. More than half work at least once a week, and some report for duty three times per week.
And that brings us to the other important ReUse It Center benefit. Many of the volunteers are retirees, and working at the center provides a valuable sense of purpose and opportunities for friendships to form.
“They’re using their life skills and have a lot of camaraderie with other people,” LaVon said. “It’s really a supportive group.”
ReUse It Center is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that financially supports more than a dozen local charities, with a focus on basic needs such as food and shelter.
Some of the proceeds go to MCC to support its relief, development and peacemaking work around the world.
ReUse It Center relies on a three-legged stool of donors, shoppers and volunteers, as LaVon describes it. Most of the customers are homeowners/do-it-yourselfers, along with landlords and contractors.
The center’s mission revolves around four key points:
- Stewardship (keeping useful items out of the landfill)
- Offering products at affordable prices
- Sharing the revenues
- Building relationships (presenting a positive, Christian attitude in the community)
Everence® helped launch ReUse It Center. Bill Toews, Everence Stewardship Advocate at First Mennonite Church, contacted Everence to request financial support, which was granted.
The original First Mennonite group responsible for starting the center included Kathy Goering, Randy Goering, Marianne Miller, Stan Miller, Pastor Kathy Neufeld-Dunn, Gary Stucky and Bill Toews, in addition to LaVon.
“Prayer and God’s guidance were an important part of establishing this ministry,” LaVon said. “We try to be open to the direction we think he’d want us to go.”