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Exit ReStore, enter WeBuild! Center

What was the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 109 W. Cedar St., will soon have new signage identifying it as the St. Croix Valley WeBuild! Center. An open house is planned for sometime in April. (River Falls Journal photo by Phil Pfuehler)1 / 2
Local Habitat for Humanity's Construction Program Specialist Dean Monroe stands before a construction saw inside the newly renamed WeBuild! Center that's filled with an assortment of tools and power equipment. Training workships will eventually be held here for those wanting to improve their home maintenance skills. Monroe said safety will be emphasized for training that involves power tools. (River Falls Journal photo by Phil Pfuehler)2 / 2

St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity has found a new use — make that multiple uses — for what was its ReStore at 109 W. Cedar St.

The ReStore took donated furniture, appliances, building materials and more to sell and make money to build Habitat homes. Last fall it relocated to a larger store in Roberts.

Now the 4,000 square foot leased but empty building is about to be used for training, volunteer coordination, and the storing and maintaining of tools and equipment.

Dave Engstrom, executive director of River Falls-based SCVHH, said the converted building will strengthen his organization.

"River Falls is a very charitable and progressive community," he said. "What I like best is that now we will be able to offer help to more families and collaborate with other organizations to increase everyone's capacity in providing housing opportunities.

"The WeBuild! Center will lower costs and allow us to operate more efficiently. It will also provide an excellent training space where we can teach volunteers and homeowners about building and maintaining homes."

Engstrom said SCVHH has its building tools and materials scattered at rental sites in Pierce and St. Croix counties. Those can now be consolidated at WeBuild!.

Engstrom said since Habitat for Humanity partners with families to build homes together, it only makes sense that these people learn home-building and maintenance skills.

"Training will be offered to Habitat homeowners and anyone else interested," he said. "We think it is important that homeowners know how to maintain their homes, keep them safe and do some minor repairs.

"This is all about helping to keep housing safe and affordable."

Engstrom said SCVHH's training will be extended to anyone wanting to improve their odd-job-around-the-house skills — from putting on a new washer for a leaky faucet to replacing a warped toilet flapper valve.

"It's for minor repairs and fixes," he said. "Also maintenance — like when and how to change a furnace air filter. It could also be for carpentry skills, safe use of tools.

"These can help prevent big repair bills. But it's also about learning when to call for a specialist, plumber or an electrician. We're not teaching people how to redo a gas line to a furnace."

Engstrom said that, depending on the demand, there will be 10-15 home-maintenance training dates a year. These are free. People will need to call ahead to enroll.

Having a building center to train people indoors, like in a classroom setting, is better than doing so on-the-job at a construction site.

"That isn't the best way to teach safe handling of power tools and basic building skills," said Dean Monroe, SCVHH construction program specialist. "The WeBuild! Center should improve our construction quality, make our building efforts more efficient and less wasteful, and help our volunteers to work more safely."

Engstrom said WeBuild! will also be used to build things like handicapped ramps, preframe interior walls and cabinetry that is then transported to area Habitat homes under construction.

The WeBuild! Center is already being used informally. By next month it should be fully operational and an open house for the public will be announced.

Engstrom said WeBuild! will eventually have a "Makerspace," a type of supervised workshop where, for a small fee, people can come and use it for their own home-building projects.

Engstrom said SCVHH will work with other organizations to take advantage of the new available space at the WeBuild! Center.

"We are hoping to be working — and have already started — working with other nonprofits who share providing housing as a mission," he said. "We have traditionally provided home-ownership opportunities, but we will be working with other nonprofits who are providing transitional housing of all kinds.

"Working with people who could use some help to transition to independent living by teaching some basic skills is something we will be good at."

The nonprofits Engstrom mentioned include New Richmond's Salvation Army/Grace Place and Turningpoint Domestic Abuse Shelter in River Falls.

Engstrom said the WeBuild! Center concept was made possible by funding from a $50,000 Otto Bremer Foundation grant. He said Bremer is a long-time supporter of SCVHH.

For more questions about the WeBuild! Center, call SCVHH's number at 715-425-5623 or email to info@scvhabitat.org.

Phil Pfuehler
Phil Pfuehler has been editor of the River Falls Journal since 1991.
(715) 426-1050
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