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Retiree Jim finds unique volunteer opportunity at the ReStore

Retiree Jim finds unique volunteer opportunity at the ReStore

Some Habitat volunteers swing hammers and raise walls on a build site. Others paint or do repair work for existing homeowners with Habitat’s A Brush With Kindness program. Still others advocate for affordable housing, assist shoppers in a ReStore, or help out in the office. And then there’s Jim Larsen. Jim travels across the Twin Cities as a ReStore Truck Assistant volunteer, collecting donations that will be sold to help fund Twin Cities Habitat’s mission. And it’s the perfect role for him.

A photo of Jim Larsen.Jim knows himself well. He knew that, when he retired from a career as a farmer and a chemical dependency counselor, he wanted to be more selective with his time and commitments. Because he had been self-employed, he knew that he liked to do things his own way. And, as a Peace Corps alum, he knew he definitely wanted to volunteer.

When Jim was working as a chemical dependency counselor, he saw first-hand the importance of a safe, stable, affordable home.

“Part of recovery is a stable living arrangement,” Jim said. “It’s a similar need to food, clean water, and clothing. An affordable home is needed to keep your life together and raise your family.”

After hearing about Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity's mission and volunteer opportunities, Jim thought it would be a good way to mix something he’s passionate about with his desire to serve. He went right up to Habitat’s front desk to inquire about volunteer opportunities. They suggested that he enroll in a volunteer orientation to get more information, so he did.

“It gave me some good oversight of Habitat, and it gave me some opportunities to get involved,” Jim said of the orientation. He knew that, ideally, he wanted to do something more active than office work, but he was used to being self-employed and didn’t think he’d want to be on a build crew.

“I do things my own way,” he added with a chuckle. So when the ReStore Truck Assistant role was mentioned at his orientation, it immediately piqued his interest, and he signed up for a shift.

Now, six months later, Jim comes to one of the two Twin Cities ReStores (located in Minneapolis and New Brighton) every Thursday morning to ride along with one of Habitat’s ReStore Donation Truck Drivers. Together, they’ll drive anywhere in the seven-county metro area to pick up new or gently-used home materials, such as doors, cabinets, and furniture. They give the generous donor a receipt, because all donations are tax-deductible. Then they bring the donations back to a ReStore, where they’re sold with 100% of the proceeds supporting Habitat’s mission.

“It’s a good feeling when I come in on a Thursday and the stuff I carried in the previous week is sitting in the showroom with a ‘sold’ sticker on it,” Jim said. In fact, last year, sales from the ReStore sponsored the construction of four Habitat homes for low-income Twin Cities families. And we just opened our second ReStore in Minneapolis last fall, so that contribution is expected to grow.

Although Jim’s in good shape, he originally questioned whether he’d be up to the task of transporting heavy materials into a truck.

“I came in with a good back, and I want to leave with a good back,” he told the ReStore staff when he started. Their response: you got it.

“Everyone here really respects the volunteer,” Jim said. “They consider you part of the team. Everyone understood and accepted that if something was too heavy or cumbersome for me to move alone, we’d figure out a way to move it together.” Jim said it’s clear that Twin Cities Habitat is used to working with volunteers, and he had nothing but praise for the team he works with.ReStore truck being loaded with donations.

“The meld of employee and volunteer is Habitat’s strength,” Jim said. He hasn’t canceled out of a shift yet, and he keeps coming back because he feels like an integral, and respected, part of the team.

Are you interested in a volunteer job like Jim’s? He has this advice: “You don’t have to be Charles Atlas, but your muscles and joints should be in working order.” Check out our unique volunteer opportunities, or sign up for an orientation to learn more!

Shop, Donate, Volunteer at ReStore.

Jan at the WCCO studio.

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