Just because a house is blighted doesn't mean it can't be useful.

That's the idea behind a new initiative launched by the DON Inc. group of companies. ReClaim! will serve as a deconstruction and reuse company to take down available properties and to open an operate an outlet that will sell the reclaimed construction materials at discount prices.

“Our vision is to accomplish two important goals," explained Tom Franz, director of community reclamation programs. "One is to salvage the building materials and get them into the hands of local folks who can reuse them, thereby making a direct impact on our environment.

"The other goal is to add to our ongoing work to create jobs here by offering 'green' deconstruction jobs and opportunities at the local DON ReClaim! retail outlet.”

The company already has begun its work, dismantling and salvaging materials from a blighted house located on Pine Street on the Lower East Side. A crew of four people dismantled the property by hand over the course of six weeks in July and August. The materials salvaged ranged from concrete blocks and bricks to lumber and cabinets. The materials then were displayed and sold on site. Many of the materials were purchased by residents of the neighborhood.

“Concrete blocks were bought to create raised-bed gardens, bricks went to redo and extend patios, lumber was bought to complete home repairs," Franz said. "We sold nearly everything that we salvaged from the building.

"It was hot, hard work, but extremely rewarding, and demonstrates very clearly there is a real market for these materials. They just need to be reclaimed and offered for sale.”

Although materials from the first project were sold at the deconstruction site, DON plans locate a reuse retail store in New Castle. Plans also include holding several pop-up stores in various neighborhoods during the upcoming months to make it as easy as possible for residents to purchase the materials close to their homes.

DON is a consumer-controlled, nonprofit organization in Western Pennsylvania, empowering people with disabilities to live as independently as they choose. It is a grassroots advocacy organization concentrating on disability rights issues, as well as skills training, peer support, de-institutionalization and information and referral services. It strives to provide independence and empowerment at a systemic level as well as at an individual level, and frame the issues as civil rights for all people with disabilities.

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