Sixty days. Two hundred thousand dollars.
That’s the goal the team at The Repurpose Project set to support the local thrift shop’s expansion plans. The shop launched a fundraiser March 18 and hopes to raise $200,000 by May 16 to open a second Gainesville location.
Since 2012, The Repurpose Project, located at 1920 NE 23rd Ave, has been home to salvaged materials ranging from old canoes, furniture items and bus seats to vinyl records, building and art supplies.
Co-founder and Executive Director Sarah Goff described The Repurpose Project as somewhat of a thrift store, though focusing on material that traditional thrift stores don’t accept. Goff hails from the Marshall Islands, a background which she said helped launch her passion for combating the climate crisis.
With an eye on sustainability, Goff said The Repurpose Project aims to make use of salvageable items which may be too large or inconvenient for other thrift or junk shops to process, therefore limiting waste and keeping materials circulating in the local economy.
“We can put in a little bit more time and effort and labor costs in collecting and sorting and organizing some of the smaller, lower dollar stuff,” Goff said. “It's really good for the environment because all the stuff that gets thrown away are resources, and we don't have to be taking more if we can keep the stuff that's already in our communities.”
Goff said the shop has focused on taking measures to make sustainable shopping more accessible.
“I think the used industry really does need to become more convenient,” she said.
With this goal in mind, The Repurpose Project offers to pick up large items people may be unable to bring to the shop.
“A lot of things end up on the side of the road because [people] can't transport them,” Goff said.
She said though the staff has been increasing pickups recently, they frequently run into the same problem: limited storage space.
Leo Asch, an employee at The Repurpose Project, said they often run into instances where they are unable to accept salvageable materials due to this issue.
“There's been situations — I just got a call the other day — somebody wanted to donate a washer and dryer, but we have 15 out there, and so we can't take them,” Asch said. “And people want to come in and donate the bed, sometimes your bed frames, but if we had a bedroom section that would take up half of this property.”
The team said they hope to expand their operations with the new 20,000-square-foot building they plan on buying, located at 1540 NE Waldo Road.
After covering about 75% of the purchase price, the $200,000 fundraising goal is the remaining amount which the nonprofit shop wasn’t able to independently pay, Goff said.
Since launching the fundraiser in March, the shop has already raised over $57,000 for the expansion. According to its website, The Repurpose Project needs to reach its $200,000 fundraising goal by May 16 to lock in the new property. Goff said donations are accepted via GoFundMe, Venmo, Facebook and at the cash register in store.
“If we can make this happen it'll just be a huge game changer for our organization, and make us really strong and make us be able to divert that much more material,” Goff said.
The staff said they are grateful for the support received so far.
“The community has helped out so much and so it's been going very good,” Asch said.
For Goff, The Repurpose Project strikes deeper than simply selling reusable materials. She said her goal is to help establish a circular local economy, where materials stay in the local community as reused products.
“Having a system in our local communities where we, we can circulate the stuff that's already here — I mean, there's so much stuff already in our community, and there's not a good way to keep it in our community,” she said.
She said a circular economy is important not only for sustainability but also for strengthening the local economy.
“Because of the pandemic, we realized how important a local circular economy is to communities, because we're really, really reliant on all these outside supply chains, and when they get cut, for whatever reason — I mean this time it was a pandemic but maybe it could be a storm or some other thing — that can slow down the supply chain,” Goff said.
With this, she said The Repurpose Project aims to provide accessible and low-cost sustainable materials to the local community. She said the Repurpose Project will stay in East Gainesville as they expand.
“There's just not much out on the east side of town, there's not, not many places that people can access material, and so we really think it's important to provide more resources ... especially this lower dollar salvage material,” Goff said.
The shop’s staff said they are looking forward to what the expansion will bring.
“Just being able to process and sell more donations to make more resources available that would have gone to the dump is a huge thing,” Asch said. “And then also with how large the warehouse is, there will be so many new jobs, which is really, really exciting.”
This expansion fundraiser is not the only goal that The Repurpose Project has in action. Goff said she hopes to continue to work and advocate for large-scale improvements to the reuse system to better address the overwhelming amounts of consumption in society and to help draw a connection between consumption and its negative environmental effects.
“If we take too much, the systems are out of whack. And we're already seeing the consequences,” she said. “So we need to make the changes now.”
From their Zero Waste Initiative to a “Big Box Thrift Store” and student storage plans, Goff and her team are continually brewing several ideas for how to make these changes in the local community and beyond.
Contact Valeriya Antonshchuk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @VAntonshchuk.
Valeriya Antonshchuk is a junior telecommunication-news and political science student at the University of Florida. As a news assistant for the Avenue, Valeriya covers Gainesville's entertainment and culture news weekly. Valeriya was originally born in Ukraine and speaks fluent Russian.