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Staff Spotlight on Kathleen House

Kathleen House (Kathy) is a true Durham native and spent many years of her childhood in the Lakewood neighborhoodShe joined the staff at Scrap Thrift in January of 2018 after retiring from Duke University as a top performing grant administrator in the science department. Kathy was intrigued by the position because she no longer wanted to sit behind a desk and was eager to try something new.  “I always tell people that I am not well traveled at all, but I worked in a science department for 25 years with renowned professors and graduate students from all over the world and I would just draw anything I could from them, about their foods and everything,” she says.

Her affection for her hometown is quite evident and she was featured in one of the first Audio Under the Stars episodes. Recorded at the Durham History Hub, her story was included in a series titled, ‘Homecoming: Stories of Leaving and Return,’ which was held on May 29, 2015 at the Center for Documentary Studies. She was also interviewed by Frank Stasio prior to the episode on his show ‘The State of Things’ and can still be heard at: https://soundcloud.com/audio-under-the-stars/east-durham-girls 

Kathy processes the clothing and textiles, hanging, tagging and preparing merchandise for the floor. She separates items to be discarded and curates higher end items, deciding which can be marked up. “Like last week we got some things and just about all were 100% silk and name brands, so all that got marked up. Well I say marked up, but it’s just from $3.00 to $8.00,” she says laughing. She has also started spending a few hours a week processing jewelry, which she really loves! 

Undaunted by the constant flow of materials, Kathy views the challenge as job security and taps into her past business skills. “I set goals for myself throughout the day, by break time I want to have this much done. I keep the backs of plastic bone tags which helps me record my progress.  I know we put out about 800 pieces last Saturday, at least,” she says proudly. In fact, her only challenge was learning about Reuse because the concept was completely foreign to her. “I’ve caught on to the culture now, but the first week I could not even throw a gum paper away. I now realize that nothing is trash,” she laughs.

She is very grateful to live in Durham and to work in such a fun atmosphere. “I tell everyone that I just love my job. How could you not? I get to listen to music and see beautiful fabrics and interesting things all day.” She enjoys the energy of the young people she works with and is constantly amazed how much they know about the music of her generation.  “The other day we were all singing, ‘ Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and I couldn’t believe it, but they all knew the words,” she says. 

With her return to the Lakewood Shopping Center, Kathleen’s life has now come full circle. She points out the family’s house next to Pine State Flowers and to Davis Bakery where her Grandmother worked. “This was an upscale mall when I was a little girl, and I remember that there was this one thing I wanted so bad from Constatines. It was a yellow and gray coat with a matching beanie. My father finally got it for me,” she says fondly.  Motioning to The Scrap Exchange, she says, “As a teenager, we went to movies at the Center theater every Friday night. And here I am back home. Back in Lakewood.”  

Give a gift that gives back to the Scrap Exchange

Zola Craft Gallery is generously donating 25% of the proceeds from the sale of this beautiful, handmade cherry wood ornament to The Scrap Exchange! Sales began on Giving Tuesday, November 27th and will continue while supplies last.

Zola Craft Gallery celebrates the work of artists living in North Carolina and across North America. They specialize in contemporary craft and handmade gifts for all occasions. Visit their shop in Durham’s Ninth Street District for handcrafted jewelry, North Carolina pottery, handblown glass, functional and decorative wood pieces, and colorful art for your home and garden.



In June of this year, Marketing Director Diana Shark stumbled upon a story about a creative reuse business in Raleigh called Designed for Joy (DFJ). After reaching out to founders Cary Heise and Kristen Sydow, Diana and Development Director Ann Rebeck visited the beautiful sunlit studio space in Raleigh’s Boylan Heights neighborhood. That visit has now developed into a joyful partnership that both organizations are very excited about. 

Inspired by international fair-trade artisan co-ops, Designed for Joy is devoted to creating a work environment that values self-care, family support, and Christian faith. “Our goal is for participants to leave DFJ with marketable skills and a solid job reference for success in the job market,” says designer and co-founder, Kristen Sydow. DFJ artists are individuals living at high risk for sex and labor trafficking and/or food and housing insecurities. DFJ partners with ministries serving women (and sometimes men) that may be coming out of emergency situations, generational poverty, homelessness, rehab, or jail.  

Cary and Kristen, along with volunteers, train the artists to produce the organization’s beautiful accessory line which is sold wholesale to an ever-growing list of boutiques in the Triangle area and beyond. Many of the items are made from reused materials, which sparked the interest of The Scrap Exchange visitors.  

Within weeks, Designed for Joy returned the visit. After a tour of the Scrap Exchange with Diana Shark, Kristen was directed to slow-moving and overstocked merchandise that was targeted for removal. The Scrap Exchange donated those materials to the program and within a couple of months Designed for Joy produced new designs incorporating the materials (pictured above). “It is a win-win for both organizations,” states Diana Shark. “We gain an outlet for material that does not sell and DFJ lowers the cost of running a valuable community program. We are very excited about what the future might hold for this kind of creative reuse model,” says Ms. Shark. 

To learn more about Designed for Joy, click here.