On Nov. 12, 2008, Finger Lakes ReUse opened its doors for the first time. The nonprofit began with seven employees operating the store seven days a week. The initial investment to open the store was only 700 dollars.
Ten years later, Finger Lakes ReUse is now operating on a budget of over one million dollars. It has 37 employees and 2 locations.
Community members and employees came together at the original location, Triphammer ReUse Center, on Nov. 12 to celebrate the 10 year anniversary. Louise Henrie, Administrative Manager, was the first person to be hired when the store opened.
“We realized pretty early on that it’s not really about the stuff, it’s about the people who are involved,” said Henrie.
The goal of Finger Lakes ReUse is to discourage individuals from throwing items away. Additionally, it’s focused on conserving resources, keeping them out of the landfill, and making them available to people who can buy those products at an affordable price.
Diane Cohen, Executive Director of Finger Lakes ReUse and one of the founders, hopes to solve the world’s waste problem.
“We should be doing a lot more of it [reuse] and really create systems that kind of match the scale of the consumerism that’s happening and a place for materials to be exchanged that really benefit other people,” added Cohen.
Robin Elliott, Philanthropy Coordinator, believes sustainability is important, especially to prevent toxic chemicals from coming into the atmosphere.
“I think now more than ever people are realizing how important it is to reuse and really realize there is no throwing away,” said Elliott.
Since Finger Lakes ReUse is a nonprofit, it relies heavily on funds from outside organizations and businesses.
“Some of our founding supporters, The Park Foundation and Tompkins County, have been with us all the way through,” said Elliott, “and then individual support, community support, not just in terms of dollars being donated, but materials brought to our reuse center which supports us.”
Cohen also noted that the community has been nothing but dedicated to helping fulfill her goal. “For anyone who’s supporting the organization just by participating, or by donating or shopping or volunteering, it’s been an amazing community experience” said Cohen.
Prior to opening in 2008, Cohen remembers spending four weekends shopping at garage sales to retrieve a sampling of products. Since then, its first location has doubled in size. Finger Lakes ReUse has opened an E-Center, where used electronics are donated, and started a job training program. This year it also hit a major milestone, selling over one million dollars worth of items.
“This is stuff that is marked way, way down. You know, we’re selling stuff for a quarter and ten dollars, it’s amazing,” added Henrie.
Elliott has her eyes set on the future. “The longer we stick around, the more we recognize what we could do with the proper resources, so I’m excited to expand, to grow bigger, maybe even have multiple locations beyond our two someday.”
Featured Image by Amanda Chin