Keen Utility is building a library of protective footwear at The ReBuilding Center of Our United Villages, a non-profit organization that collects and sells used building and remodeling materials for reuse in Keen’s hometown of Portland, OR.
Since 1998, The ReBuilding Center of Our United Villages has been a local source for reusable building materials, promoting the reuse of salvaged and reclaimed materials. It also provides deconstruction services as a sustainable alternative to conventional demolition. The organization’s headquarters is a tribute to reclaimed materials in and of itself with doors reimagined as ceilings, rows of theater chairs replacing conference room furniture and windows that date back to when Oregon became a state in 1859.
Since partnering with the organization in 2014, Keen has donated 28 pairs of boots to The ReBuilding Center’s staff of full-time volunteers and 40 pairs for a Volunteer Boot Library to service the 40,000 community members who put in time at the center, or during deconstruction projects, which require steel toe footwear.
During a tour of the facility, The ReBuilding Center of Our United Villages Community Legacy Outreach and Strategic Coordinator Sean O’Connor said mandating steel toe footwear for deconstruction projects—where volunteers dismantle anything from kitchens to entire houses to salvage reusable materials and appliances—decreased their volunteer pool. “A lot of people came in to help but couldn’t do the tasks because they didn’t have the proper footwear,” he explained.
That’s when O’Connor, who is also a Keen brand ambassador, reached out to Keen Utility and established the start of the Volunteer Boot Library. Keen donates B-grade steel toe boots that are functional but not sellable due to small imperfections to color or stitching. Deconstruction volunteers can check out a pair of boots for their volunteer day, just like at a bowling alley. This allows them to stay safe and comfortable while de-nailing lumber, packaging trim, grading salvaged lumber and loading and securing materials in trucks.
O’Connor said Keen’s donations have been a “huge morale booster” for the organization’s staff. “We didn’t want to buy new footwear, and we can’t expect volunteers to spend a lot of money on shoes,” he said. “We use re-purposed all the way through, and it was a great opportunity for us to work with a local business.”