After a few years sampling a musician’s life in Atlanta, New York and Chicago, Joseph Drushal found his way to Portland. What drew him here was its enthusiastic spirit of activism.
Joseph is the Gresham ReStore’s new assistant manager. He grew up in the Akron area, and then began exploring the east coast making his way as a drummer and working in the restaurant industry to help pay the bills.
“Over the years I got really comfortable growing with teams of people and learning to work collaboratively,” he explained. “You have to in restaurants where it’s fast-paced.”
But even though he landed jobs in the management end of things, he had realized all along that food service was not his thing.
“It turns out I love to help people. I love to take care of the home and design the home and remodel, remake,” he said–which explains why he’s such a great fit with The ReStore.
When Joseph relocated to Portland about three and a half years ago, he immediately became involved in a self-directed educational program that teams student-residents who may be new to the area, with mentors, to develop projects that have a direct impact on the community.
Joseph selected a hyper-local project centered on alternative currency, in this case a gift economy and resource networking. It had to do with a designated self-serve donation space, or free-box area, on NE Alberta.
Someone deposits or ‘gifts’ an unwanted item at the site, then someone else who can make use of the item could freely take it away. The problem was that the free-box area sat along a sidewalk that was completely exposed to the elements. Rain, and whatever else might be falling from the sky, often left donated items in an unappealing, unusable mess requiring constant cleanup.
Joseph took the lead on the project to design and build the Alberta Free Hutch, a protected multi-shelf structure that has now been operational for over two years. Though the hutch is open 24-hours a day, volunteers stop in twice daily to do a bit of tidying, taking the time to recycle what they can and re-donate extras they don’t have room for.
“It’s kind of self-managed by the community,” Joseph points out. “It also provides a forum for other events, too. We’ve done a fashion show from our excess clothing. It’s more about the people than it is the physical object of it because people just want a place to connect with each other, and we connect around free culture. But it’s really the people that make it.”
Since his arrival in The Rose City, Joseph has also lent a hand at City Repair, PDX Time Bank, Rockwood Urban Farm and Oregon Walks. And he recently helped organize a men’s “accountability assembly.” Joseph explains it as a feminist’s project for men who are pro-fem, pro-equality, pro-women, pro-color.
His interests also encompass building and adapting furniture, some out of wood pallets.
“I know it’s kind of a cliché thing, but they’re so ubiquitous,” Joseph admits as he describes a find of unusual half-sized pallets he upcycled into modular furniture for his apartment, and his kitchen prep counter creatively adapted out of a pallet and a broken IKEA desk.
Then there’s the music. Joseph’s favorites are in the electronic music realm (“many musicians that range from ambient to more danceable, bass-driven songs”) and “synthesizer artists that play with noise, rhythm, and texture.” As far as bands go, Deerhoof and Battles are also on his A-list (“[they] sound a little goofy, playful and experimental”).
On a lighter side, Joseph enjoys skiing, a good hike (when there’s time), the beach, and board games like Settlers of Catan and his all-time favorite, Arabian Nights.
At the Habitat ReStore, Joseph will work closely with volunteers and volunteer recruitment, nurturing a thriving socially-conscious community anxious to support Habitat and promote reuse.
“There’s a higher concentration of compassion here,” he says. “I think I needed that; I think I needed to know that is out there and this is where I found it.”
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