At first glance, the ReSource warehouse at 451 11th St. NW looks like an immense compilation of random stuff.
Along one aisle, hundreds of multi-colored fabrics line the shelves next to leather and vinyl straps. Turning to the right, you will see a multitude of glass ranging from fine stem ware to broken plates and bowls. Turn once more and you will find a complete collection of top-notch latex paints along with an on-site paint mixer.
The array of miscellaneous items goes on forever.
But closer inspection of the haphazard goods shows the ReSource facility exposes an intertwined theme that is not arbitrary, but rather symbolic of a life-changing process larger than tattered twine or shattered glass.
Safe Harbor Rescue Mission’s ReSource facility, which officially opened to the public Wednesday, is one of 45 reuse centers in the nation that allows citizens to drop off and pick up “industrial, business and domestic discards” for re-purposing.
“The main idea is that everything we have here can be used to make something else,” said Debbie Haynes, executive director of Safe Harbor Rescue Mission, a non-profit organization that helps women that are in need on their journey back to a whole and productive life, according to safeharborrescuemission.org.
ReSource’s waste exchange program will divert thousands of tons of trash from local landfills. Just this year, ReSource plans to salvage 5,000 tons of waste from landfills, Haynes said.
Haynes added that anyone who wants to donate goods to the facility can stop by during their regular hours on Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The materials in the warehouse are priced “reasonably,” with most items selling individually for less than $1 or by the pound for $3 to $5. Prices do vary from these estimates based on the items.
Money from the items benefits Safe Harbor.
The warehouse at ReSource also features a room for birthday parties, where children can bring friends to make something out of reusable items. There is also a work shop that local reuse artists can use to make their pieces.
Haynes hopes ReSource will inspire others to not only be green, but use the materials to be creative.
“Just in the past month, I’ve been inspired to create something and made a bird out of an old mixer,” Haynes said. “If I can make a bird, there’s no telling what someone else can do.”
But the function of ReSource is two-fold and extends far beyond turning one man’s waste into another man’s artwork.
Most of the staff that work at ReSource are part of Safe Harbor’s Residential Whole Woman program, a one year program that “provides women with the opportunity and necessary resources to heal from past wounds and resulting coping behaviors,” according to safeharborrescuemission.org .
Working at the facility not only gives the women work experience, but also helps them become a productive member of society, Haynes said.
“It’s wonderful that this has provided me and others an opportunity to become a working member of our society,” said Denise Suttlemyer, a resident of Safe Harbor’s “Whole Woman” program who plans on going back to work as a hairstylist. “It’s been wonderful to see a business from the beginning and see how it blossoms.”
Haynes said Suttlemyer has been a resident of Safe Harbor for about one year and already has a prospective employer.
“It’s great to get out of yourself and see how this (ReSource) is going to work for the community and the environment,” Suttlemyer said.
At ReSource, Suttlemyer has assisted by cleaning the warehouse and managing incoming reusable items.
Haynes said the women from Safe Harbor who are working at ReSource are all residents, and she hopes to eventually employ some of them when they graduate from the program
“This will help us have those women employable, and in this economy that’s incredible,” Haynes said. “These women are awesome. They have so much to overcome.”
Coming full circle
In addition to the facility’s warehouse, ReSource also offers a gallery area that showcases work from local reuse artists.
The profits from the gallery works go to the artist and Safe Harbor.
“It’s fascinating to walk around the gallery, look at something and say, ‘What did they make that out of?’” Haynes said.
Marilyn Broussard is a local reuse artist who decorated the gallery at ReSource. She was placing pieces of broken plates along one of the building’s columns as she described the symbolism of the whole project.
“The mosaic is kind of symbolic of Safe Harbor because you’re taking plates and dishes that are broken and making something new,” Broussard said. “That’s kind of been the theme of the whole thing.”