It’s difficult to miss Kevin Pate. He’s the gentle giant who greets you on the donation dock of the Portland ReStore. Kevin is kind of quiet, but he is decisive and in control of all he surveys. As warehouse supervisor nothing much gets past him without thorough, fast scrutiny. Then–lickety-split–it’s out on the floor ready for sale, usually in under 10 minutes.
“Kevin–or ‘Hoss’ as we all call him–has been such a great asset to our ReStore. I breathe a sigh of relief when I see him, knowing that day after day he will do his absolute best,” said Shel Mae Reinwald, retail director for the Portland/Vancouver Metro ReStores. “He and I have worked together for many years and I have watched him rise through the ranks from a work program volunteer, to part time hired staff, to ReStore associate, and finally to Restore supervisor. Every step of the way, he amazes me with his ability to grow and develop, to organize chaos and to face each crazy day with a kind heart.”
Kevin joined the ReStore after moving from Southern California three years ago. Under his belt he carried with him 15 years of experience renovating apartments. He painted, laid tile, replaced plumbing and electrical fixtures-developing just the kind of know-how that would come in handy at the ReStore.
“I’m familiar with almost everything that comes in,” Kevin says. “I say that only because on a daily basis I’ll see something, something I’ve never seen before like tools that I’ve never seen before, tools from the 1950s and 1960s.”
That’s when Kevin turns to backup – like “tool guru” Glenn Van Buren.
“I’ll say, ‘Glenn, what is this?’ And he’ll give me the total rundown on what it is. That’s the cool part, it’s like you learn something new every day because you’re seeing something you’ve never seen before. it happens on a regular basis,” he adds.
From warehouse assistant to warehouse supervisor within a year and a half, Kevin keeps the pace constant. Working hard. Forging relationships.
“The first thing I tell everybody about this job- what makes it so great- is it’s not just a paycheck,” Kevin explains. “You go home at the end of the day feeling like you’ve done something more than just earn a buck. You meet the people who are getting these (Habitat) homes, you work with them on a daily basis, you know their families. It’s not just a face on a billboard somewhere.”
He’s talking about the homeowners who are expected to contribute 500 hours of “sweat equity” in order to qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home. Often times a Habitat homeowner will volunteer at The ReStore to satisfy part of that requirement.
“When their time is finally up and they have the ceremony getting their keys, you know the person standing on that porch. It’s not just “I’m happy for you.” It’s, man, I saw that guy sweat his butt off for 500 hours. I watched him get in here every day just like a regular employee. You can see the enthusiasm build up. It just makes everything worth it,” Kevin says.
It’s like this: Family is everything, and everything is about family to Kevin–his family at home, and his family at work. In his home court, he has his wife (married 18 years), seven kids and 12 grandkids. Football season is an event for his brood. Each of his kids has their own favorite team and Kevin says there’s a lot of smack talking going down.
“At any given moment it goes off like a skyrocket in our house,” he laughs.
When he’s not at home, he’s often hanging out with friends from The ReStore. He’s very proud of his ReStore family. He believes the ReStore team is definitely heading in the right direction.
“What we’ve done in the last couple of years is phenomenal. I remember days down at the Water (Avenue) store when I first started. We’d do $1,200 – $1,300. That was a fantastic day. Everyone went home happy,” Kevin recalls. “And just to show you the level that all three stores have stepped up to, now if we have any less than a $4,000 day, everybody goes out of here with their face hung low. Like, man, what happened?”
Although Kevin is our warehouse staff leader and he delegates many tasks, most of his day is still spent interacting with customers: helping donors and staff unload donations; assisting customers on the sales floor; helping customers load up new purchases. He keeps learning from those daily exchanges.
“It’s taught me a lot of patience,” Kevin says. “That overflows in every other aspect of my life.”
Kevin Pate, ladies and gentlemen.