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News / Business / Clark County Business

Unwanted stuff given sense of RePurpose at Vancouver center

1-800-GOT-JUNK’s sister company provides items to nonprofit groups

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: April 5, 2024, 6:08am
6 Photos
Sunny Rae Hanna, operations manager for the RePurpose Center, helps to position a truck full of furniture ready to be dropped off at the NW Furniture Bank on Mill Plain Boulevard in east Vancouver on March 27.
Sunny Rae Hanna, operations manager for the RePurpose Center, helps to position a truck full of furniture ready to be dropped off at the NW Furniture Bank on Mill Plain Boulevard in east Vancouver on March 27. (Tommy Rhodes for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The RePurpose Center’s Sunny Rae Hanna waved her hand over a cluster of tiny bicycles sitting in a small warehouse and smiled.

The bicycles will soon head to their new home: Lifeline Connections, where children at camp will ride them this spring and summer.

Around the Walnut Grove warehouse sit other examples of the RePurpose Center’s mission — taking unwanted items and finding a place where they are needed instead of heading to a landfill, said Hanna, operations manager for the center.

The RePurpose Center, a sister company to the Portland-Vancouver area’s 1-800-GOT-JUNK branch, works with nonprofits and treatment services in Clark County, including Lifeline Connections, Thrive2Survive and NW Furniture Bank.

The nonprofits tell Hanna or RePurpose Center staff what items they are in need of, and when those items come in through 1-800-GOT-JUNK, Hanna donates them to the agencies.

“This can be the future,” Hanna said. “Why don’t we use resources already here and use them for good that will help our community.”

A local solution

The RePurpose Center’s mission has been in the works for almost two decades and started with 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

Ben Hoskins, founder of the local 1-800-GOT-JUNK outfit, started his business more than 20 years ago. He said, from the beginning, clients would ask him what happens to their junk after it’s donated.

“Being in this industry, I felt an obligation to try to build our business in a sustainable way my employees and I could be proud of,” Hoskins said.

Over the years, 1-800-GOT-JUNK found partners that would take items that could still be used.

“We could donate different types of items and recycle others before our trucks eventually went to the transfer station,” he said. “But we were only able to donate what facilities would or could accept when we showed up.”

About nine years ago, the company was connected with Share, a Vancouver nonprofit that aids people experiencing poverty and homelessness. Share expressed the need for furniture and household items for clients transitioning into housing. But Share didn’t have the storage capacity to meet the need.

“I realized if this was the case for them, it was probably also the case for others,” Hoskins said.

So 1-800-GOT-JUNK rented a warehouse in Clark County and stored useful items until they were needed. Earlier this year, 1-800-GOT-JUNK officially launched the RePurpose Center to continue its work.

“Basically, I realized it was not worthwhile to wish that there was a single organization we could work with to maximize the items we repurpose. I decided instead of wishing it existed, it was better to try to create it,” Hoskins said.

Reducing footprint

The world is facing a pollution crisis — a fact that fuels staff at the RePurpose Center, which has five locations in Washington.

About Donations

The RePurpose Center is unable to accept donations from individuals or other junk removal companies. “We are focused on getting systems in place to first maximize the repurposing of items from our sister company,” said Ben Hoskin, founder of Portland and Clark County’s 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

The RePurpose Center is always looking for additional partners who have a need for household items or furniture donations.

Upcoming Toy Drive

  •  What: RePurpose Center’s Earth Day Toy Drive. The business is looking for donations of gently used toys, such as plastic toys, books, games, puzzles and children’s bicycles.
  •  When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 22    n Where: 7704 N.E. 47th Ave., Vancouver

Every minute, the equivalent of two garbage trucks full of plastic are dumped into the ocean, according to Oceana, a nonprofit organization focused on preserving and restoring the world’s oceans. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 33 billion pounds of plastic.

In 2023, the repurpose work by 1-800-GOT-JUNK kept 50,000 pounds of furniture and consumer goods out of the landfills in Washington each week — about 2.6 million pounds total last year.

“At our current pace, we are on track to repurpose over 3 million pounds of items this year in Washington state. I would like to increase that to 5 million pounds in 2025, and then grow that to 10 million pounds by 2027,” Hoskins said.

This year, the RePurpose Center in Vancouver aims to work with at least 10 organizations in Clark County, according to Hanna.

“I feel like there are so many people trying to link arms with one another and maybe we can be part of that,” Hanna said.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.