LIMA — Judy Rifenburg travels from Columbus Grove to Lima once a week for shopping — and she always stops at the ReStore.
“I like to repurpose things. I’m a person who likes to collect. That’s my personality,” Rifenburg said. “It’s always a thrill to hunt what you can find, what you can reuse.”
She is just the kind of customer Lima’s Habitat for Humanity ReStore was aiming for when the organization kicked off a new fundraiser earlier this year. The ReStore Ultimate Upcycle Challenge is an idea new here but borrowed from Philadelphia, said Karen Wagner, ReStore manager. Her brother-in-law passed on the idea, which he had seen at a home show.
“I just thought that it was a neat idea, and I thought I would give it a try,” Wagner said.
The challenge works like this: Entrants bought something at the ReStore — furniture, home decor, building supplies — and redid those items to make something new. The deadline for the projects was last week, and next the items will be displayed at the Lima Mall so passersby may vote for their favorites. The big winner earns $500, and there is another $250 in other cash prizes.
“Potash almost immediately offered a $500 grand prize, so we’re going to do a $500 Visa card,” Wagner said, explaining there was another anonymous donation of $250. “Everybody who turns in a project gets a $25 credit here at the ReStore.”
After the display time is over at the mall, the items will return to the ReStore for a silent auction. The winners of the competition and the winners of the items themselves via the silent auction will be announced June 8, at the store’s birthday party/open house.
Some entrants did multiple projects. Nadine Gurto, of Lima, submitted several — from serving trays to a dog bed to large-scale dragonflies made out of fan blades and stair balusters.
The serving trays were cupboard doors, painted and reimagined. The dog bed is an end table, flipped over and painted with chalk paint and waxed. She also did a couple signs with word decals from the dollar store.
“It’s not anything big, but it’s just possibilities you can do with things,” Gurto said.
“Ever since I was little I’ve always been creating things out of nothing,” she said, explaining she grew up in Virginia. “We always had the coolest forts because we had pots and pans we would make out of clay from the riverbank.”
Now, Gurto has a job that involves managing spreadsheets, so she explained she needs the creative outlet from doing crafts.
“I’m a frustrated creative soul,” she said, laughing.
Inspired by these projects, but not sure where to start?
“Turn it upside down,” Gurto said. “When you turn things upside down they sometimes look completely different and you can see other things in them.”
Casey Reames, of Lima, also entered. His project is painted tiles arranged into a wooden frame, which could be hung like a painting or could be used as a tray on a large ottoman. He did all the building and painting, with help from his sister on the subject matter.
“I wasn’t even going to enter it, man, and at the last minute, I decided to,” Reames said. “I figure either way, I’m giving something back to them.”
Reames said he often stops at the ReStore to help with his contracting jobs. He mentioned Wagner recently helped him locate some large glass for a project, calling him when it was donated to the store one day.
The painting took some trial and error. Because the tile is sealed, the paint wanted to move around when he tried to brush on a clear coat. He opted instead for a spray sealer.
“I chose to do this because it’s something that other people can do for their own home,” he said.
Shelley Davis, of Lima, submitted three projects: a table and tray she repainted and embellished, and wall art. Well, maybe it’s decor.
“I’m kind of hesitant actually to even call it art,” she said, laughing. The black and white photos came from a coffee table book on Ceylon, and she painted a piece of wood and embellished it with moldings and details. The tray and table followed the same procedure.
“I just like things that involve the creative process. For me, it’s relaxing,” Davis said. “I’m always putzing around doing things. … It was just a way to help support them.”
Gary Cooper, of Lima, submitted two projects. He took an outside light fixture and split up its parts into two items, a glass display box and a lamp. He used to run Frames to Remember in Elida, and he said that business gave him a lot of practice in redoing things.
“I said, well, I can do this. I do this all the time,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The light fixture was bright brass, which he painted satin gold. He found a tile for a lid, added a round mirror inside and added a little angel — just to show the purpose of the item. He used some of the light fixture’s leftover parts for the lamp, using another cord and socket from a trashed lamp to wire it. Its little feet are drawer pulls. With a coat of paint meant to imitate wrought iron, the lamp was done.
“The key to doing all this … is finishing. That will make it or break it,” Cooper said before he hurried off to shop for his next project.
Crystal Bayes, art teacher at Lima Senior’s School of Multiple Intelligences, delivered a few projects done by her students.
“We try to do as much recycled stuff as possible,” she said, explaining the kids need to know how to fix and reinvent things.
Columbus Grove resident Judy Rifenburg, who visits Lima to shop, also entered two projects: A brass lamp became a unique candleholder, with teacups and tea lights taking the places of the lightbulbs, and a cupboard door became a keyholder with chalkboard. The lamp no longer has wiring.
“It’s dual purpose. It could also be used as a birdfeeder,” she was quick to point out, explaining she could see it hanging in a tree outside or on a deck. She’s done this kind of project before.
“It’s very French country, and there’s never two alike,” she said.