Without funding, Re-Build It Center opens

The Gorge Re-Build It Center is open for business despite major funding setbacks. The non-profit eco-building center, a project of the Columbia Gorge Earth Center, is located between Tum-a-Lum Lumber and Windance Sailboards on Highway 35.

The center, whose goal is to divert quality, reusable building materials from the landfill for resale at affordable prices, has faced an uphill battle for funding since the idea was hatched nearly two years ago — mostly due to the economic downturn.

The center’s executive director, David Skakel, announced this week that a major grant the center was seeking from Meyer Memorial Trust was denied. That means additional funding from the Mt. Hood Economic Alliance has also disappeared, as it had been awarded contingent on the Meyer grant coming through.

But community support for the project has been strong. Windance owner Brian Carlstrom donated commercial space at his store for the center to use through next April. Joe Field, a part-time resident of Rowena, donated a truck and a cargo trailer for the business.

“The way I look at it, out of the ashes rises the phoenix,” Skakel said. “As much as we would like to be in a better position, we think we have a good opportunity here to prove our concept for the next seven to eight months.” Along with operating the business, Skakel will continue to seek funding through grants and other sources.

“It really depends on community interest and support at this point,” he said. The Gorge Re-Build It Center is seeking volunteer help, cash contributions and donations of valuable items that the center can sell to raise money.

“But we’re especially interested in asking contractors in the Gorge — this is Gorge-wide, not just Hood River — to chip in to support us now because we believe this amounts to an indirect investment in their own business,” Skakel said.

“We’ll save them countless future trips to Portland for used building materials, and eventually for new alternative building materials. We’ll have a local place where they can purchase these things.”

The center is seeking donations of building materials, which can be done by appointment.

“Due to the tight space, we have to be careful and scrutinize the items we accept,” Skakel said. “We hope people respect this because with so few resources, it could threaten the survival of this project if we have to carry the cost of getting rid of unwanted items that are just dumped here.”

Skakel said he remains “upbeat” about the project.

“On the one hand, (the funding setbacks) were unexpected because we feel we have such a solid project,” he said. “But on the other hand, it’s a really tough time to raise funds in the nonprofit world.

“We see this as a great opportunity,” he added. “We’re going to have seven months here to make this thing work if the community supports it.”

The Gorge Re-Build It Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 to 5. For information or to inquire about donations, call the center at 387-4387.

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