by Joshua Jerome
BARRE — ReSOURCE has been serving Vermont for 25 years, opening its first store in Burlington in 1991, as Recycle North. As conceived at its outset, Recycle North provided opportunities for homeless men and women to learn important job skills that would allow them to gain employment and work towards climbing out of poverty. The founder, Ron Krupp, characterized his start-up as an “ecological goodwill venture” where items could be reused and human dignity could be renewed as well. Recycle North had the further goal of providing the local marketplace with quality used goods at affordable prices. And the store met another need. Whenever individual or families suffered some kind of severe hardship, or even a catastrophe (like a fire, an unexpected death, an eviction or the like) the Recycle store became the place to go to find essential household appliances and supplies. Serving this critical need became one of Recycle North’s most important services.
For 25 years now, the thrift store with a social mission has developed and expanded their community impact and rebranded as, ReSOURCE, and for six years now has implemented their multi-faceted mission in Barre, meeting community and individual needs through their job skills training program, environmental stewardship and creating economic opportunities for central Vermonters. ReSOURCE’s YouthBuild program serves young men and women ages 16 to 24 who have dropped out of school. Participants in the comprehensive training program spend upwards of 24 months learning building skills while working on housing and energy efficiency projects. Participants in the program graduate with valuable job skills and can earn their high school diploma or GED in addition to several professional certifications.
There are about 50 individuals who volunteer at the Barre ReSOURCE. Many are looking to develop job skills and gain experience that will help them gain and maintain employment while others volunteer to receive reduced pricing on merchandise or simply because they support the mission of the organization. Last Friday the store was bustling with people and I was fortunate to get a tour led by store manager, Robert “Bob” Kershaw. The amount of electronic recycling (e-recycling) that goes through the Barre location is tremendous. Old televisions, computers and printers, along with much more, get sorted and tested. Those items not able to be salvaged and sold on the floor are sent off to be disassembled and recycled into other products. They even sell Local Paint, a recycled paint product developed out of the Chittenden Solid Waste District.
It’s not just the merchandise inside the building that is being reused, but the building itself; a 13,000-square-foot granite shed from 1898 with two five ton cranes once used to maneuver large blocks of granite. These days the cranes do not hold slabs of granite, but a stage. A partnership between Re-Bop Records and ReSOURCE allows the thrift store to transform into a music venue. Bob explained to me how all of the merchandise are on platforms and are simply rolled out of the way. With several concerts already held at the space so far this year, the next Flying Stage performance will see Burlington band, Madaila, play March 5.
As a consumer, I have utilized ReSOURCE to repurpose furniture that no longer worked for my family and their e-recycling center to unload old computers. I also have found unique items for costumes and building supplies that have saved me considerable money. I am thankful for their existence in providing structure and opportunities for our youth to become productive members of the community. Their ability to partner and create a community space where music, theatre and storytelling can take place supports our cultural heritage and provides for a unique experience. The myriad of household goods is sure to please the thrift store connoisseur and the frugal yankee weekend warrior.
If you haven’t made it down to ReSOURCE, you should. It will not only save you money, but help them to continue to operate and develop programs to help those individuals climb out of poverty and support themselves.
The author is executive director of The Barre Partnership.