Voyageurs volunteers: Staff from Voyageurs fill a volunteer void at the ReStore

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Voyageurs Expeditionary School staff members organize lumber on Monday at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- After being closed to the public through April and May while still accepting donations, the items at the Bemidji Habitat for Humanity ReStore were starting to pile up.

On Monday, around 20 staff members from Voyageurs Expeditionary school donated some “people power” to help organize space and make it more shopper-friendly.

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Voyageurs volunteers carry a window in front of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Leading up to the day of volunteering, Scott Anderson, director at Voyageurs Expeditionary School, said the school chose to partner with Habitat for Humanity as this project directly ties in with a portion of the school's mission statement -- community service and service-learning projects.


“We will be providing some people power -- moving items, clearing out areas to make room for new arrivals, some cleaning and sorting and even hauling away of items,” Anderson said. “A big freshening up of the place.”

After helping with two Habitat housing projects in the rain last year, working inside seemed like a good option.

The educators participate in a yearly service project the week before school begins, during staff training, to affirm their commitment to service-learning.

“We’re just kind of continuing our tradition of doing an activity such as this to support the community that supports us,” Anderson said. “It’s a good team-building activity, we’ve got some new staff this year, and it gets us out and about.”

“People power-wise, with 20 people working two and a half hours, you can make quite a dent in progress,” he added.

Some volunteer crews were working outside, organizing lumber, sorting doors and carrying away unsold items.

“We’re all about public service at Voyageurs. Us teachers are committed to helping the community, said social studies teacher Joe Gould. “We require our students to do so many hours of community service every year.”

“This is a great operation they have here,” he said of the ReStore.


Paraprofessionals Ruth Webb and Brenda Gersich were inside, sorting and organizing store shelves. The two were opening unmarked boxes and labeling items to make the store easier to navigate.

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Paraprofessionals Ruth Webb and Brenda Gersich organize shelves in the ReStore. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Webb brought two vans of students to volunteer at the ReStore last year. She said, “Our school is real big into service.”

About the ReStore

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The main entrance to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The store is located at 1357 Exchange Ave. SE. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances to the public at a fraction of the retail price. Proceeds from sales are used to build homes in the community.

The local Bemidji store is located at 1357 Exchange Ave. SE, and is managed by Mike Dinkel. Dinkel said volunteers are needed locally to help sort through the influx of donations.


“I got flooded with a lot of donations. My back building, this building, got just packed. So they are currently helping me with some organization in the building, we’re getting some things in here that we can get on the floor,” he said. “I was in here in April and May accepting donations, but our store was not open.”

Dinkel said many of his regular volunteers have not been in lately, because many are at higher risk for COVID-19.

“We have a few regular volunteers, but they haven’t been coming in due to COVID-19 so, it’s wonderful to have a big group of adults here, because you can get a lot done in a short period of time,” he said. “Today, they are helping me with some organization, which is great.”

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A volunteer carries a door into the ReStore. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

The store has been open since June 1 for shopping. The ReStore is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Donations are accepted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays or by appointment.

Those interested in volunteering at the ReStore should contact Dinkel at (218) 444-6398 or email .


Sinks line the wall of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The store donates earnings toward Habitat for Humanity housing projects. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Hannah Olson is a multimedia reporter for the Pioneer covering education, Indigenous-centric stories and features.
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