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Rachel Bromann

Rachel Bromann sows the seeds of tomorrow through her work at The ReStore

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Rachel Bromann has always had an affinity for gardening; it’s as if nurturing and cultivating life is second nature to her — one could argue she applies these same practices to the community as well.

Bromann manages Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Cedar Rapids. The ReStore is a home improvement store that accepts donations of home goods and home improvement items to resell at a discounted rate – the proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity then partners with local families to build, rehabilitate and repair safe and affordable homes in the local community.

Bromann manages day-to-day operations of the ReStore, processing dozens of donations, tending to customer needs, managing her current staff, and reviewing any applications for new staff members or volunteers among other things.

The work can be tiring, but Bromann says what keeps her moving is knowing every day she’s helping fund the cost of someone’s new home.

“Affordable housing (is) at such a shortage all around the country,” Bromann said. “Sometimes when I’ve had a rough day, I look at how much of a house I helped build that day.”

Bromann said she’ll add up the day’s earnings to see how many parts of a new home Habitat for Humanity will be able to purchase with the proceeds.

“For example, say we have X amount of dollars in sales, I can say, ‘great, that’s a couple of windows,’” Bromann said. “It’s just a little bit every day; just a little bit at a time.”

Understanding how impactful daily contributions can be is something Bromann is familiar with thanks to her love of gardening.

“One of my passions is vegetable gardening,” she said. “I'm hoping to build a food forest someday.”

A food forest is the practice of cultivating and imitating forest ecosystems for human food production.

“My family have been gardeners all my life,” Bromann said. “My first garden was a serenity garden. I was so happy after pulling out my first two cucumbers. It was like a miracle that I grew this all my own; I was hooked.”

The parallels can be easily drawn between cultivating a garden — and cultivating a flourishing community.

But it doesn’t come without obstacles, Bromann’s biggest current challenge for the ReStore is recruiting new volunteers and staff members.

“We rely heavily on our volunteers,” she said. “Especially volunteers with any electrical experience for hardwired items. But any skills can be accommodated. We can always find a spot for someone regardless of skill set.”

The ReStore is also currently accepting applications for multiple warehouse positions and an assistant manager position.

“We could really use some extra hands,” Bromann said.

You can’t put a price tag on rewards you reap from working at a place like the ReStore according to Bromann.

“A young couple came in while trying to rebuild their house after the derecho.” She said. “And they were going through the whole rigmarole with insurance. They happened to come in while we had some hardwood flooring in, and we gave them a heck of a deal on the flooring; they were able to rebuild their whole house with hardwood flooring at the price of carpet. They were just so touched. They needed that boost after so many things hadn’t gone right. They were very emotional; it was a very heartwarming experience.”

Helping others grow and thrive is at the core of why Bromann chose to work at The ReStore. In fact, there are a few new efforts on the horizon, specifically workshops for the general public, to help educate new homeowners on home maintenance.

“What if your parents never owned a home? What if they rented all their lives?” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done without my dad’s help. I know people would utilize a program like that.”

This story was reprinted with permission from, and in partnership with, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids.

Photo caption: How does Rachel Bromann use her energy? She helps facilitate affordable housing by managing the Habitat for Humanity's ReStore in Cedar Rapids. (Photo courtesy of The Gazette)

“Affordable housing (is) at such a shortage all around the country. Sometimes when I’ve had a rough day, I look at how much of a house I helped build that day.”
Rachel Bromann

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