Everything is community: individuals, organizations, and staff. It is this philosophy upon which North Bay’s Rebuilt Resources Skills Development Inc., a not-for-profit charitable organization, has flourished into a two-business enterprise - training and recycling.
Recognized as Entrepreneurial Community of the Year by the 2007 Northern Ontario Business Awards, Rebuilt Resources is an independent, non-subsidized enterprise, integrally connected with the community.
“It’s been a huge community support project,” says Maureen Brazeau, general manager and driving force behind the company’s development since its inception. “Everyone has been on side to make this go, and even today, we work with so many partners, it makes us very unique.”
Backed by a board of directors, Brazeau was hired in 1991 to perform a feasibility study. Since then, Rebuilt Resources has grown in leaps and bounds, despite the nay-sayers.
The brain child originated with Rick Saini in 1988, who wanted to establish a re-use, recycling business that would employ “differently-abled” people to repair and refurbish discarded material.
Today, it has evolved into a 14,000-square-foot facility that employs between 21 and 30 people annually, and re-sells and recycles about 1,120 tons of material a year, keeping thousands of tons of material out of the landfill sites.
Set up like a department store, Rebuilt offers used clothing, furniture, electronics, house wares, linens, sporting equipment, books, crafts, and a host of other items neatly displayed, dated and well-organized.
Rare or unique items are displayed in glass cases at the front and put up for auction, which is efficiently carried out in three binders, similar to a silent auction. Four consecutive days with no bids, designates the item sold. This attraction maintains a steady flow of interested customers, and potential sales. Brazeau, who came up with the idea about 10 years ago, says it is quite successful and generates a decent profit. All profits generated by the sales are invested in employee wages/training and operations. Any surplus goes to charity events.
With seven full-time staff, including Brazeau, and part-time workers, the place is a hive of activity on any given day. Employees in multi-coloured tie-dyed t-shirts are easily visible on the floor, available to assist. Many also work in the back sorting, cutting or baling clothing, some that in turn, will be sold for rags or sent to southern Ontario, where it is re-sorted and donated to developing countries. Two bright fluorescent green trucks average between 13 and 30 pick ups per day, depending on the season.
Described as a “huge community support project,” Rebuilt Resources specializes in training experience. Approximately 70 per cent of the staff are employment disadvantaged, which Brazeau says can be many different things.
“It is not just developmental, or disabled. Everybody has an employment barrier, whether you see it or not.”
When Brazeau first began working at Rebuilt, she was a single parent on mother’s allowance.
“This business gives people an opportunity to get back into the workforce who otherwise, would not have had a chance,” says Brazeau.
Sometimes it is simply about building confidence. Basic first aid and WHMIS training is provided along with a nutrition/proper lifting techniques workshop conducted by a local chiropractor.
All the people in training come from a variety of employment agencies or off the street. They go through the interview process and are paid minimum wage, except for co-op students who come from three different local high schools. The training is for one year only, because it is not a sheltered workshop, which follows different parameters for charities in training. Therefore, the company has a high turn over.
Inspired with confidence and transferable work skills, the majority of workers go on to other jobs when they leave, indicating the success of the program.
“The changes are subtle, but strong,” Brazeau explains. “We aren’t changing personalities, just some work habits.”
“Being able to square your shoulders off and say ‘I can do it!’ is what we hope we give when they leave.”
Brazeau praises her staff up and down, the support from the board of directors, as well as all the people in the community that have helped make Rebuilt what it is today.
“We believe in our community,” she says. “We have to work together to keep our community strong.”