As volunteers dismantled the contest floor of the SkillsUSA championships at Bartle Hall for the final time, staff members and contractors for Habitat for Humanity ReStore were there, reaping a windfall of appliances and construction materials used in the contests.
With SkillsUSA completing a 21-year run in Kansas City and moving its competition to Louisville, Ky., next summer, the vocational-education group decided to donate even more material than it usually does rather then move it.
“Every year after the competition, we pick up slightly used building materials that we can resell in our stores,” said Jessica Ray, who directs Habitat’s two ReStore centers. “We are getting quite a bit more this year.”
In addition to its own four trucks, ReStore contracted with a local company to drive two semitrucks with flatbed trailers into Bartle to haul away materials Thursday night. One trailer was loaded high with lumber that had been used in construction contests.
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“We get a lot of lumber, fasteners, stud walls. This year we are getting ovens,” Ray said. “We’re picking up partition walls, workbenches, plumbing parts, HVAC equipment, electrical things they didn’t use.”
Driving around Bartle in a golf cart Thursday night, SkillsUSA volunteer construction chairman John Williams pointed out an unused stack of plywood sheets that Ray was welcome to haul away.
“We don’t get a ton of lumber donated, so when we do get it, it goes very fast,” Ray said.
Sales at the ReStore centers at 303 W. 79th St. and 4701 Deramus Ave. raise money for Habitat, the local branch of a charity that since 1979 has built homes for deserving needy people in Kansas City.
“The second reason for our existence is landfill diversion,” Ray said. “We reuse building supplies, which represent a huge proportion of what ends up in the landfill.”
On Thursday night, Habitat ReStore procurement manager Mark Bullock helped haul away a pile of PVC pipe that had been used in a plumbing contest earlier that day.
“We’ve gotten brand new sheets of plywood, siding, plumbing pieces, insulation, tools,” he said. “Every year we have a surge in our inventory and sales receipts after SkillsUSA. We’ll miss them a lot. We’re sorry to see them go.”
Dave Worden, SkillsUSA’s program director for the annual championships, said many Kansas Citians had expressed similar feelings to him this week.
“We’ve grown at such a rate since we first came to Kansas City,” Worden said. “The first year we had 44 contests and 2,000 kids competing. This year we had 100 contests and 6,000 kids. We’ve grown from 200,000 members to 350,000. But we’re out of space here.”
This year, SkillsUSA contests were spread out among Bartle’s exhibit hall, its adjoining Grand Ballroom and Conference Center, and the American Royal Governors Building. Next year, everything will be under one roof in Louisville’s convention center.
Rather than move 45-year-old Whirlpool stoves used in cooking and baking contests, Worden said, SkillsUSA donated them to ReStore. General Electric in Louisville has already donated new equipment to use in 2015, he said.
Same with the workbenches used in the plumbing contests.
“It would be more costly to pack them up and load them on a trailer and truck them 800 miles,” Worden said. “That would be several thousand dollars. We can take that money and build new ones down there. We can upgrade our materials.”
Nevertheless, he noted, much of the donated material is still in good shape. Bricks used in the masonry contest can be stripped of mortar that has hardly had a chance to set and be reused. PVC pipe used by student plumbers has not even had water run through it. Instead, Worden said, air pressure is used to test the students’ workmanship for leaks.
“We’ve already talked to Habitat Louisville about doing the same thing down there,” Worden said. “It’s part of our community service. It’s one more thing we can do for them.”