Habitat fundraiser focuses on creative upcycling

— Created September 21, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Beauty, it seems, lies not only in the eye of the beholder, but in the imagination as well.

Plenty of imagination has gone into the first ever UpCycle-It auction and luncheon for Habitat for Humanity of Island County. The event will be held Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Center, 51 SE Jerome St., in Oak Harbor. All proceeds from the event benefit the local nonprofit. Tickets are $45 per person and include a box lunch and the opportunity to bid on the UpCycle-It projects completed for this fundraiser as well as other items. Visit islandcountyhabitat.org/upcycle-it/ for tickets. Online voting is open through today, but those attending may also vote on their favorite upcycled item.

This is the first live fundraising event the nonprofit has been able to hold since before the pandemic, and organizers are excited to see it coming together.

“I kept seeing all these upcycling things [on social media] and I’d say, ‘Wow, we have something like that in the store,’” said Kathy Blair, resource development director for Habitat of Island County. “So, I thought this was a great way to get the stores involved. People love shopping at our stores and I thought this would be a great way to engage the artistic community and share what Habitat does as well as raise money.”

Blair said they started inviting people to participate in the UpCycle-It auction in June and the last day to purchase an item was Aug. 31. When people registered to do a project, they received a 25 percent off coupon toward the purchase of the item they upcycled and then returned to Habitat for the auction. The whole thing has come down to participants’ creativity.

“Everybody was really excited about it from the get-go,” Blair said. “I was shooting for around 20 items and that’s pretty close to what’s been submitted and are up on the website. And there’s a variety of items – some from people that do this type of thing regularly to people who were doing their first project. It runs the gamut.

“One gal turned a 1960s dining chair into a bright green jungle-themed chair that’s just adorable,” she continued. “One gal took a toy chest and turned it into a Winnie the Pooh theme. Another turned a bench into an under-the-sea theme. Someone used different color broom handles to create a tabletop. There’s some really fun stuff and some really classy stuff.”

Most of the items created will be part of a silent auction happening at the event, although Blair said they may pull the top vote-getters out and add them to the live auction. Those who created the items that get the most votes will get prizes and bragging rights.

The event itself will be casual, affording those attending the chance to look at the upcycled contributions up close. They will be able to bid in both the silent and live auctions, which includes several “experiences,” rather than “stuff.”

“There’s a sailing experience for 12 on the Schooner SUVA, ziplining on Camano Island, a one-night stay package at Swinomish Casino, and Auntie Jackie from Zanini’s Delicatessen will come to someone’s home and cook dinner for six,” described Blair. “There are quite a few other things as well, a lot of really cool experiences. We’re excited about the unique items and experiences. It’s different than anything else going on.”

Perhaps the most important thing in the spotlight at Saturday’s event is Habitat for Humanity’s overriding mission to provide affordable housing to Island County residents. Blair said some of the people currently in Habitat’s homebuyer program will also be volunteering and speaking at the UpCycle-It event.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand this is not necessarily an easy program to get into,” she said. “They have to apply, they have to qualify and if they’re selected, then they have to do the work. There are classes such as financial management, fire safety, landscaping, plus 250 hours of sweat equity is required for each adult family member. And we have all different kinds of families – a large percentage are single moms but there are two-parent households as well. Quite a few of our families have family members with special needs.”

According to Blair, Habitat for Humanity’s connection to a home it has built doesn’t end with its purchase.

“If a family moves on, we buy the home back from them and flip it,” she said. “So it’s not just affordable the first time, it stays permanently affordable. We also do critical repairs for low-income homeowners and we just finished accepting applications for a senior citizen home repair program. What we do is multi-faceted. We’re actually doing work that is making a big impact.”

Blair said she is most looking forward to the homebuyers sharing their stories with those who attend the UpCycle-It auction and luncheon and making that connection with the community.

“I love for our donors and supporters and the community in general to meet the families,” she said. “I hear so many of the families say they feel like maybe there is someone who deserves this more or who is in a worse situation. What is that? That is the most amazing thing to me.”

This family-friendly event will include a box lunch from Haggen’s and a take-home craft for kids of all ages. Those interested may go online to see the items that have been upcycled for this event, vote for their favorite project, make a donation to Habitat for Humanity of Island County or purchase tickets to the event at islandcountyhabitat.org/upcycle-it/.