The Repurpose Project – Building Community Through Reuse

Old art supplies and materials from deconstructed buildings may be unwanted by traditional thrift stores, but the Repurpose Project of Gainesville, Florida, gladly accepts them. The decision to accept and sell such a wide range of items at this creative reuse center generates a lot of work for employees and volunteers, but benefits the surrounding community by opening up more opportunities to reuse rather than buy new. And, since opening in 2011, the Project has become much more than just a store by regularly putting on a variety of educational and recreational programs. Each week, classes that teach the skills needed to fix broken household goods are held in their workshop. The Project has set up “creative community tables” where children and adults can make art out of the materials in the shop. Customers are allowed to self-price many items, ensuring that even the poorest community members can benefit from the Repurpose Project. There is also a work-in-progress outdoor event space that will be a recreational alternative to one of America’s biggest pastimes: shopping for new items. And in the future, co-founders Sarah Goff and Mike Myers hope to open a lending library to introduce the concept of a shared economy to Gainesville.


The center made the move to a new facility in 2014, which has played an enormous role in making each of these features possible. The location, which contains 13,000 square feet, is four times larger than the old space. This helped to double revenue, allowing the Repurpose Project to add two extra staff members, bringing them to a total of five employees. Sarah lists many of the center’s items on Craigslist, which also helps to increase revenue. As a result of the larger facility and increased recognition within Gainesville and the surrounding counties, Goff says, “We are busy all day everyday now, and we are getting more and more donations.

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The Repurpose Project

This write-up is by Jessica Wachtler. She attends Wesleyan University and is an intern with ILSR’s Waste to Wealth Initiative in Washington, DC.

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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Waste to Wealth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.