BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
Picture this: You walk into your kitchen. You’re so excited – you’ve finally chosen to do your dream kitchen remodel. New appliances, cabinets and fixtures – the works. Suddenly, you panic. This is going to be a lot of work – the exciting part, picking new everything. The less than exciting part – getting the old items removed. On top of that, you just joined this great Facebook group on being “waste-free,” and you realize that you have no idea what to do with all of your old stuff! You don’t want to just throw it out. Suddenly this exciting remodel is overwhelming.
Cue Habitat for Humanity’s Deconstruction Service.
“There is nothing greener than reusing a kitchen,” said Vince Cannino, the ReStore’s Donation Services and Procurement Director. The “decon” team, as they are referred to, make this magic happen.
The process is simple: If you’re buying or selling a home, remodeling, or looking for a change, you contact Vince and his team. They’ll visit the home and see if the job qualifies for the program. The team will then schedule a time to remove items that qualify, load them into a truck and bring them to the ReStore, where they are available for sale. The proceeds help Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County serve families in the community with a low income with safe, affordable and decent housing.
Nick Jamison, one of the volunteers since the early 2000s and a retired director of the city Recreation and Parks Department, talks about his work as a hobby with friends more than “work.” “We might be at a store and see a new tool and think, ‘oh this will be great for decon work! Then we’ll come in with our new tool to show everyone.’”
“Everyone enjoys it,” he said, “It’s a way to give back, and for seniors, in particular, it’s a way to give back, stay active and socialize. All of these guys getting together to see each other, keep up with families – and to be of value.”
The program is indeed that of value. At the end of the fiscal year, the team was up to 40 kitchens. Vince recalls starting to focus energy on the decon team after being part of it for eight years. “Kitchens sell quickly in the store,” he said. “Once I realized people were always asking for kitchens, I started to call on designers, kitchen designers and studios to get a system going.”
This focus is also led by Vince’s experience – he’s been writing a column on homes and living spaces for Winston-Salem Monthly for 12 years, and he knows quite a few designers and contractors in town. “Last year we had a removal, staged it in the lobby area,” he said. “Someone hung a note on it, expressed interest and within 24 hours, we had sold it for $9,000.” Now, not all of the decon projects yield such a high opportunity, but in 2018, they did 20 kitchens and, in the last 18 months, doubled it.
“We’ve gotten to the point that we can go into many kitchens at 8:30 or 9am, and be done before noon,” Nick said. “We’ve done a condo kitchen in 1.5 hours and had a house with two kitchens that took seven people 5.5 hours.” The team is made up of 15-18 people, all retired. Some built Habitat houses and then graduated to decon. “We’re better at taking stuff out than building stuff. There are guys in their 60s, 70s and even to their 80s working on the decon team.” The team feeling is palpable when talking to Nick – the volunteers are truly excited to be doing the work.
This process is easy on the homeowner as well – I had a chance to talk to Anne Prescott-Ramm, who had worked with the team. She was moving to a smaller house, and immediately thought of Habitat for the things that didn’t quite fit into her new home, “I have the greatest respect for their integrity and principles.” Aside from that respect, Anne couldn’t express enough how easy working with the team was. “Everything has been the way you’d want it to be,” she said. “They came on-time, when you called and were efficient – and so gracious.”
If you’re looking to remodel or get your home market-ready – a bathroom, kitchen, interior – think about Habitat. Not only are you providing the opportunity for someone to reuse something, but you’re also helping the ReStore, which helps build and repair homes. If you would like information about the Deconstruction Services offered by the Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County ReStores, contact Vince Cannino at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336.817.8107.