You could say Ray Williamson “saw a sign” a decade ago that led to him becoming one of the Beaverton ReStore’s most dedicated volunteers. Ray and his wife Brenda were driving near their home in Brennan, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula, when Brenda “spotted something shiny in the window” of a Jefferson County Habitat for Humanity resale boutique and told Ray, “Pull over!” That shiny thing was a metal crow sculpture. After a few minutes of chatting with the store’s volunteers, the two swiftly became its proud owners and also new members of the store’s volunteer corps.
“Empathy and compassion, especially for people who are living on the streets, are what drew us to Habitat. Just trying to make a little bit of difference,” he said.
For the next five years, Ray and Brenda volunteered at the store together for a six-hour shift most Saturdays. They worked from store open to close, staffing the checkout and sorting donations.
“The only time our volunteer shifts for Habitat weren’t together was when she’d be out on the Ladies’ builds, pounding nails,” Ray said with a laugh.
The store received a lot of art donations, sometimes in good shape to resell, sometimes needing work. Ray set up a makeshift frame studio in their home garage, replacing cracked glass, re-mounting, cutting new mats, and repairing or repurposing frames. In the five years he volunteered there, he estimates he repaired roughly 300 pieces of art for resale at the store.
Of those, one image spoke to him and Brenda: a panoramic photo of a canoe on a lake in front of rolling hills. It reflected their own love of canoeing, so they purchased it and hung it above their bed.
When Brenda became seriously ill, the couple moved from Washington to Beaverton to be closer to medical care. Seven months later, Brenda passed away, and Ray was devastated.
It had been a while since he’d volunteered with Habitat, but a few months after Brenda’s death, he felt the call again.
“I do feel like helping other people can help when we’re hurting, too,” he said. He started volunteering at the Beaverton ReStore, and for the past year and a half, he’s worked three days a week. As a homeowner for more than 50 years, he’s learned how to execute countless DIY projects, and figured out mechanics from maintaining his 1970 Volkswagen van. His favorite part of his ReStore role is using his acquired knowledge to help others.
“I relish when one of the other associates gets stumped and they come to me,” Ray said. “When they say, ‘I have a question,’ I always respond with, ‘I have an answer. I don’t know if it’s the right answer, but it’s an answer.’”
To see Ray in action, visit him at the Beaverton ReStore most Mondays, Wednesdays, or Saturdays. To become a volunteer, go to: https://habitatportlandregion.org/volunteer/