Deconstruction to Construction
Milwaukee Habitat’s Deconstruction Services crew salvages reusable items from residential and commercial buildings, saving people time and money. They give items a second life, reselling them to fund Milwaukee Habitat’s mission of building decent, affordable homes in partnership with families in need.
Volunteers Ken and Cindy Gear started the program in 2012 with a small group of volunteers. One of those volunteers, Bill Willkomm, is still volunteering with the program. Bill has been a regular volunteer with Habitat for over 20 years and started on the construction site before he joined the deconstruction team.
“I’m a vocational teacher. My interest and skills matched Habitat’s mission. I started by doing Blitz weeks and then I started working Saturdays. Since I retired in 2001, I’ve been a habitual,” Bill said.
The current deconstruction team is a close group of individuals that volunteer their time.
“We’re all good friends and have the same motivation. We all have the same spirit,” Bill said. “We have all been blessed by a good life. We are not giving back so much but giving what we have by helping someone else.”
Since their start in 2012, they have salvaged more than $3.6 million worth of materials. This helps fund Milwaukee Habitat’s work and impacts Milwaukee Habitat families.
“Our job is to provide a home where family activities can live and grow,” Bill said. “For me, it’s doing the hands on types of things. I can go in as many days as I want and be the change and see the homes go up.”
The deconstruction team also benefits the environment by keeping waste out of landfills. They have kept more than 9 million pounds of reusable materials out of landfills since their start. The appliances and home items are resold in Milwaukee Habitat ReStores which funds Habitat’s mission.
“I’d rather see someone buy a kitchen set for a thousand dollars than two thousand dollars,” Bill said. “Give it to a charity and help another family grow. It has so many plusses to the people it benefits, not just donors and homeowners. Everyone can gain from it. Financially and emotionally you can give. It’s a good feeling to make people happy.”
Because of their amazing work, the deconstruction team was recognized during this year’s Framing the Future Gala. Watch the video below to learn more about the team and see how they’re making a difference through their service.