Are you a morning person or a night person?
No. I’m a coffee person.
Briana Ramos has been a donation pickup driver for Habitat ReStore for nearly a year. On any given day, she will pick up 6-8 donations. A single pickup could be one sofa, or a house full of belongings. She can do it.
“I have tools,” she laughs.
For most of her life, Briana has worked two jobs. Her first was delivering newspapers for the Rockford Independent. Then Subway saw her through her high school years. College came and with it various employers, tops among those occupations was barista. Her favorite coffee: black. Hold the latte, please.
Besides her determination to get the job done, Briana also comes equipped with compassion and a fascination for the stories.
Born a Michigander, Briana earned a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies in social science from Michigan State.
“It’s like a liberal arts degree, but my focus was on community governance and advocacy,” she explains. Lots of sociology and political science and international relations. “It’s interesting to hear people’s stories and learning about different people’s lives. Then maybe from that, how to do something about it, about situations.”
She credits her close relationship with her grandfather for keeping her grounded during her college years. As the oldest grandchild, Briana had always had a close relationship with him. Then when she moved away from home to attend college in Lansing where he lived, she was right next door. They would share dinner and conversation every Friday night.
A welcome constant and a confidant, he listened closely as Briana shared her life’s dramas: relationships, classes, politics, etc.
“He’d slip me a $20 bill, and I’d be, ‘I don’t need $20.’ But I really did because I was really broke and he knew,” she reflects. Two days after her graduation from Michigan State, Briana’s grandfather passed away.
Escaping the harsh Midwest winters (“I don’t want to ever go back to the snow. Ever!”) Briana moved to Austin, Texas, serving a year in AmeriCorps at a homeless shelter for immigrants.
“I was expecting Texas to be like a desert, and it wasn’t,” she said, noting the Austin Greenbelt and the super chilly natural Barton Springs Pool. (I guess that’s relative, right?)
But it was time to move on. “Texas was too hot…90 is OK, 95 may be OK, but like 110? Uh-uh, I can’t,” she said.
When she relocated to Portland, it was for the wide range of hiking options and the lush vegetation. “I’ve just never seen green this color before!” she exclaimed.
Her first venture out was concurrent with Oregon’s first fatal cougar attack. After only 2 1/2 miles, Briana turned back on the Timberline Trail, too nervous to continue. Since then, Briana has explored many more PNW gems, like hiking to Coldchuck Lake in the Enchantments.
What else does she love about Portland besides its proximity to paradise?
“There’s a lot of food from everywhere. That’s unusual,” she says, referring in part to the Taiwanese restaurant near her home. “There are actually a lot of taco places here, too. Coming from Texas, I was kind of worried.”
After a long day, loading and unloading furniture and other donated materials, Briana likes to unwind at her neighborhood green space (“It has ducks!”) toting with her a snack, a book or, more often, a podcast. It’s going to be a documentary, often an episode on true crime.
“My favorite podcast is called ‘Crime Junkie.’ They try to focus on cases like murder cases or missing person cases that didn’t get a lot of attention from the media,” Briana explains. “A lot of time it’s unsolved.”
She also recently finished “Girls Incarcerated,” a documentary series that traces the lives of minors in juvenile detention.
“I like that it goes into their stories, so that people who are quick to judge can see everything else that is going on in their lives, and why that contributed to maybe their actions that weren’t great,” she says.
Books? Briana just finished Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” while simultaneously reading “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. She aspires to do something great with her life, too.
What will that be, Briana?
“I feel like this is the question of my life right now: What I want to do with my life. Kind of my quarter-life crisis,” she adds.
Down the road, that may mean California…or Mexico, where Briana hopes to perfect her Spanish language skills.
For now, Briana reviews her lineup of pickups for the day before heading out in ReStore’s donation truck. It’s a large service area nearly 100 zip codes to cover in the Portland/Vancouver Metro Area. Each donor is given a pickup window, and it will be up to drivers like Briana to make sure they arrive on time and stay on schedule.
“I think a lot of people know us for home building supplies. They don’t know that we take furniture, dishes, appliances, art. We take art! A lot of people don’t know that,” Briana says.
What other kinds donations does ReStore accept? Check out our DONATION GUIDELINES and schedule a pickup right here or drop off donations at a Habitat ReStore listed below.
Open 10am to 6pm 7 days a week.
10445 SE 2nd Street
13475 SW Millikan Way (at Hocken)
610 NE 181st Ave at Glisan
10811 SE 2nd Street