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Re-Build-It Centre operators asking for a break

Missing donations hurting bottom line for charity

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The Re-Build-It Centre operators in Whistler are asking that contractors honour homeowners' desire to donate items during renovations.

Centre manager Brian Van Straaten said this week that sometimes when Re-Build-It employees go to pick up donated items from a home under renovation the best items tagged for donation by the homeowner have disappeared.

"The contractor who has been hired by the homeowner to renovate has the impression that since the homeowner has marked things to be taken away they are 'free' so they take what they want leaving the dregs for us," wrote Van Straaten in a letter to Pique.

When interviewed he recounted one recent frustrating situation during which he visited a house set for renovation and the homeowner said he wished to donate almost everything in the home. The day the pick-up was scheduled the homeowner called him to cancel because the contents of the home had already been cleared out. The call came in as the Re-Build-It truck was on its way to the home. Van Straaten calculated the value of the items at about $1,000 in lost revenue to the Whistler Community Services Society, which operates the centre.

The centre offers a program where Re-Build-It employees will visit a home under renovation with the owner and help the owner tag the items to be donated to the centre. The items for donation can't always be deconstructed and moved at the time of the initial visit so a second visit takes place later.

Van Straaten has a simple request: "Contractors, please think twice about taking away the valuable opportunity for us to turn a donation into revenue for our social service programming."

He noted that proceeds from Re-Build-It Centre sales help fund 27 programs and services offered by WCSS.

The food bank in Whistler is just one of the organizations that benefits from money the Re-Build-It Centre raises.

According to the WCSS, the food bank budget was spent in the first four months of the current fiscal year.

"When they do better, we do better," said food bank coordinator Sara Jennings of the efforts of the Re-Build-It staff.

Jennings said the demands on the food bank have been growing over the last three years leading to a deficit of about $20,000 this fiscal year.

"Financially it has been a tough year for us," Jennings said.

The funding situation has led to a shift in what goes into food bank bags and food bank operators are encouraging supporters to consider giving more cash because cash goes a long way in the hands of the Whistler Food Bank.

Van Straaten said the Re-Build-It centre in Function Junction has been overwhelmed with generous donations of gently used building supplies, furniture and appliances.

Along with the salvaged materials, the Re-Build-It staff removes furniture tagged by the homeowner for donation.

"These donations are not the same as free, as we sell the items and turn the money back into funding for the food bank, outreach workers, drug and alcohol education programs, counselling assistance and community kitchens to name a few of our core WCSS programs," said Van Straaten.

The centre is open seven days a week operating out of a warehouse at the end of Alpha Lake Road.

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