Alyssa Albert: By trial and error

The story of Alyssa Albert begins in Vancouver, Washington, where she was born in historic St. Joseph's Hospital. Her life has flowed through a series of waves and currents that led her to the doors of Habitat for Humanity Store in Vancouver  seven months ago as store manager.

Waves and currents are an important part of her story, considering her family totally uprooted themselves twice to move to Hawaii. The first time was when Alyssa was five years old. Her mom packed up a 4x4x4 crate of necessities and sold everything else in order to make the move to Kailau Kona. Alyssa, her brother, Mom's boyfriend, Mom's best friend, and Mom's best friend's kids were all part of the entourage searching for a healthier lifestyle on the Big Island. 

There, and back again to Vancouver, and then back to Hawaii --each time selling virtually everything, each time moving with family plus friends, en masse. Two years here, three years there. Within each stretch in Hawaii and on the mainland, her family moved several times, keeping just ahead of increasing rents. Alyssa attended every school on the Kona side of the island, and several more living in Vancouver. 

At 16, when Alyssa was having a particularly difficult time making new friends in Hawaii, she took the focus off her social life and began excelling in school when she discovered a new interest in the ethnic, cultural and historical diversity of the Hawaiian Islands.

As a part-time hostess at the Kamehameha Hotel -- the official host of the Kona Ironman World Championship -- Alyssa particularly loved meeting people from all over the world and yearned to experience the vastness of the world.

"I wanted to be a flight attendant. I wanted to travel, or work on cruise ships. I wanted to travel around the world," she says. But she was immobilized by the idea of traveling alone. 

Alyssa set down stakes permanently when she and her mother purchased an 1890s farm house in Woodland, Washington. She wanted to give her two-year-old son roots. After she moved in, they discovered that her grandfather had lived in the exact home as a child with 15 siblings. It had changed some since then (seemed smaller, Grandpa said); it had survived a fire and been remodeled several times over, but the bones and the charred attic archway are still in tact.

It's been 15 years since they moved in. Alyssa says she has no regrets. Her son has thrived in the shelter of the old home. He's an avid fisherman, hunter and is often following woodland trails on his dirt bike or four-wheeler.

"We can see St. Helens from our front window...and miles of farm land," she says. "I have a willow tree that's almost 100 years old in my front yard. [My grandpa] used to climb that willow tree."

Over the course of those 15 years, Alyssa acquired the experience to make her a great match with the ReStore.

She has a strong background in retail, first working her way up through virtually every department at Walmart for seven years, then about seven years with Ace Hardware as cashier, then bookkeeper to  inventory manager, then PIC (person in charge) and assistant manager. She also traveled from store to store training others to take on the corporate bookkeeping roles. She was meticulous in all areas, and for several years she was doing complete store inventory, counting every single drill bit, Craftsman socket, nut, screw and power tool twice each year. 

Speaking about her early training, Alyssa said, "One of the first questions I asked my manager at the time was, 'Is there anything that can't be undone so if I mess something up I can't go back and fix it?' He said there was nothing that can't be undone."

So she forged ahead, primarily on her own. What she has learned she has learned mostly by trial and error. She continues to have a deep love of learning and a penchant for teaching. 

Those are skills that work well at the ReStore where no two days are ever alike, where inventory changes by the minute...or by the second, where you may have 14 volunteers working one day or 40... or 4. 

We're thankful Alyssa found her way to the ReStore. Really thankful.

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