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ReSource of new life

March 8, 2012

Our nation is often times known as a throwaway nation, but as the old saying goes, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

Resource Warehouse & Gallery isn’t your grandma’s traditional resale shop. Eddie Broussard explains why.

Broussard serves on the board of directors for ReSource and Safe Harbor Rescue Mission.

“About two years ago, we started to look for a social enterprise for two reasons,” he said. “Primarily, to provide job skills and career experience for Safe Harbor Rescue Mission participants. Secondarily, we wanted something that would bring revenue back to Safe Harbor to offset a portion of the expenses.”

Safe Harbor is a faith-based non-profit organization that works with women who need hope and a hand-up. It provides a one-year residential life restoration program, and it also functions as a day shelter for homeless women and children.

“We didn’t want a traditional re-sale shop,” Broussard said. “We did not want to compete with the re-sale shops in the area that support wonderful organizations.”

Broussard and Debbie Haynes, executive director of Safe Harbor, visited the Scrap Exchange in Durham to talk about social enterprise. They learned that the business just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and that the business is very successful.

“Scrap Exchange is a big warehouse full of junk, and people were in and out all day long,” Broussard said. “Yes, junk, but ...”

Broussard said a class of children was doing a study on re-use and green living, there were birthday parties and “people everywhere.”

“Five minutes into it, I realized what was going on,” he said. “The Scrap Exchange is a creative re-use center, and now we [ReSource] are one as well.”

Creative re-use takes things in that are used to make something else. Broussard said there are only 45 in the nation and three in North Carolina. ReSource is one of those three.

To fulfill its mission, Resource Warehouse & Gallery will collect unwanted material resources and distribute them through its creative re-use center, which will include a retail store, Artists’ Marketplace gallery, workshop space, party room, office space, and warehouse storage.

To that end, another aim of ReSource is revealed.

“Our goal is to promote creativity, environmental awareness and community through re-use,” Broussard said. “If you can engage the art community and the education community, you got it made. Artists are looking for materials for their media. Teachers always look for affordable projects.”

ReSource provides those materials at a very low cost.

“That’s the idea, and once we started development and research, we decided it’s unique to the county and wonderfully unique to be able to provide it,” Broussard said. “It’s the whole green thing — to divert from landfills.

“Our goal is to re-use God’s creation wisely,” he added. “We put out the call in our [Safe Harbor] newsletter for an available building. We got a phone call not long after that.”

ReSource opened its doors in June 2011 in a former manufacturing facility.

“This building was dormant, thrown away,” Broussard said. “We came in, made it new and it came to life. The art and education communities love it, and the general public loves it.”

ReSource’s 13,000 square feet is divided into two main parts. The back of the building, the warehouse, is where donations are received, sorted and sold. The prices are kept low for a reason.

“Sell cheap, cheap,” Broussard said. “We want to move it out.”

The space in the front of the building is a gallery to provide a place for the artists who use re-used materials to sell their work. The artists receive 65 percent of the sales, and Safe Harbor receives 35 percent.

“This is re-use,” Broussard said. “For example, this coffee table used to be a screen door.”

More than 30 artists consigned work in the gallery, which is full of certainly unique items. Visitors to ReSource can spend an hour or more meandering through the aisles.

Organization is certainly the key. ReSource doesn’t want people to walk into the business to a big pile of junk, so sorting is key. Women from the Safe Harbor program are employed in the warehouse and in the gallery.

“The women own it, and this job goes on their resume,” Broussard said. “It gives them another start.”

Broussard said it’s all beyond their dreams.

“There’s a creative place in all of us, and when you see what others make, a light goes off and you say, ‘why, I can make that,’” he said. “So they see items in the gallery made by artists, and they go back into the warehouse and buy materials to take home and make something.”

There’s also some cool vintage stuff that was donated and is for sale.

“It’s so cool,” Broussard said with a laugh.

As of last week, ReSource has diverted 57, 739.44 pounds of “stuff” from the landfill.

“It’s a mission,” he said. “Some companies generate a lot of waste and don’t realize it. A company might ask who in the world wants this? We do.”

Nancy Braswell manages the warehouse operation of ReSource, and she agrees that organization is critical.

“I want people to be able to find what they’re looking for — presentation is everything,” Braswell said. “My job is really enjoyable and doesn’t seem like a task.”

Braswell came to Safe Harbor in May 2010.

“I came there after devastating circumstances in my life,” she said. “I stayed one year and had counseling. They told me I could redeem my life. Everyday there was someone lifting me up and telling me I could start over — even at my age, 56.

“I threw away my chances, but they kept telling me I am worth something,” she said. “God redeemed what was broken, and I’ve been blessed and am so thankful.”

Broussard said, “We’re faith-based, and this is God’s story — to redeem what was once broken.”

Three county parishes — Church of the Ascension, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and Episcopal Church of the Epiphany — worked together to provide resources to Safe Harbor.

“The $15,000 grant from the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina provided the seed money to start ReSource,” Broussard said. “Debbie (Haynes) said, “You know, the taking of things thrown away, discarded by society, we make them new, and that’s really the story of Safe Harbor, and that’s our story.’

“To be around this and watch is a blessing,” Broussard said.

What: ReSource Warehouse & Gallery.
Where: 451 11th St. N.W. in Hickory.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
For information: Call 828-326-7233 or visit www.resourcewarehouse.org.

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