Shawn Severinski and Jeff Robertson have been with Rebuild Junction Secondhand Building Supply since it was started as a social enterprise by the Quesnel Shelter & Support Society.
When they found out the shelter society would be unable to get funding for it this year, and that Rebuild Junction would close its doors on April 17, the pair jumped to action.
Those involved in the program were devastated when they found out Rebuild Junction would be shuttering its doors.
“It was just decided, ‘OK, [the funding] is not going to go through,’” says Robertson. “And the next day we were out trying to find out how to [keep it open]. And within two weeks, we took over as owners — it was the only option, really.”
Rebuild Junction was started in an effort to support people in the community with barriers to employment by teaching them skills which would enable them to eventually become employed, as well as provide them with mentorship and a supportive community. The store sells second hand building supplies, and also works as an environmentally friendly program to reuse materials rather than send them to a landfill.
They also create custom woodworking projects out of the materials, including cabinets, shelves, crates, benches and more.
Severinski was out of work for 16 years when he first became involved with Rebuild Junction, due to problems with addictions and other issues. “I started [at Rebuild Junction] two years ago working with Amy [Quarry], and we took this place from the ground up, literally. The walls weren’t painted, there was nothing. We built the place.
“The first year it was kind of crazy, because we didn’t have much for shelves and whatnot, but — it built me up,” says Severinski. The program gave him employable skills, and also helped him get his driver’s licence. One of the people running the program encouraged him to get his licence, and the program helped play for some lessons to make it happen. With the help of the program, Severinski also got a job.
Currently off work on disability, he is one of the new owners of Rebuild Junction — now, technically, a business.
Jeff Robertson is the co-owner. Robertson started as a volunteer when the program first started.
He came in to run the wood shop, and things took off from there. Eventually, as more funding came in, Robertson went from a volunteer to a paid employee.
Robertson is also off work on disability, and originally began volunteering with the program as a way to get out in the community.
Now co-owners of the store, the pair have spent the last two weeks going around town, getting their business licence and opening a bank account. The community rallied around them — with their landlord giving them a year of free rent in order to stay open — and Rebuild Junction will see another day.
“It just fills your heart,” says Severinski.
Although it is now technically a business, the pair are working to keep as much as the old program in place as they can. Neither are expecting to make much of a profit, and both expect that they will largely be donating their time.
“It’s helping the community,” says Severinski.
Both say they can afford to spend most of their time at the store making very little money, and both are planning to continue with it for as long as possible.
The name of the of the business is also changing, from Rebuild Junction Secondhand Build Supply to Rebuild Junction: Custom Woodwork & Secondhand Supply.
Severinski says they have seen a couple people around the property trying to take firewood or other items, and when that happens they have a conversation and he offers them some small jobs to do around the shop instead.
One man was going through a pile of bent and rusted old nails, straightening them out and taking them home. When they noticed, Severinski and Robertson approached the man and told him when they get up and running, they could give him a call and get him to do some paid work for them in the store.
The program doesn’t just give people employable skills, says Severinski. “It gives people something to do, somewhere to go.”
And that’s what they’re hoping to continue with moving forward.
The pair are still working out the business side of things — neither have run one before — but both are determined to continue helping those who are down on their luck or out of work in whatever way they can, for as long as they can.
Now that they have sorted out most of the immediate business, the pair are working on some woodworking before they host a grand reopening on Saturday (April 27). Some of their woodwork includes a boat-themed wine rack, a shelf created by someone previously in the program, crates, a bench, and more. Severinski says some of their greatest inspiration comes from things they see on the internet, and that people are welcome to bring in a photo of something they would like to have custom made. If they have measurements, he adds, it’s even better.
Rebuild Junction: Custom Woodwork & Secondhand Supply will reopen on Saturday, April 27 at 10 a.m., and will continue to run during its regular hours.