Building a community.

Habitat for Humanity volunteer Neville Reo uses his woodworking skills to help families in need.

Retirement just doesn't suit everyone and, for 79-year-old Neville Reo, running the joinery workshop at Whangarei's Habitat for Humanity's ReStore means he can continue to draw from a 40-year career in the building industry.

Being part of the Habitat for Humanity Northland team, with the ultimate goal of creating warmer, drier, upgraded houses for Kiwis in need, has given him a new lease of life.

"I'm working alongside fantastic people. If we didn't have all these volunteers, we wouldn't have a shop. The management really looks after us. Plus, I'm my own boss."

Habitat for Humanity ReStores resell quality new and gently pre-loved goods. Funds raised at your local ReStore supports Habitat for Humanity's mission to build homes and communities. AMI is proud to partner with Habitat for Humanity, to help achieve their goal of transforming the lives of 75,000 Kiwis over the next three years through warm, dry housing.

While he might knock off early if he's getting a bit tired, Neville generally puts in three, sometimes four, days a week – all voluntary. In fact, such is the lure of the place, he says he generally can't wait to get in.

Upcycling donated pallets into handcrafted wooden items sold through the Whangarei ReStore gives Neville joy. Planter boxes in varying sizes are the mainstay of the project – Neville can make two, from scratch, in a day, though much of that time will be spent in preparation, breaking down the pallets and putting them through a machine called a thicknesser which planes away all the rough edges.

The full product range includes dinner wagons, trays, letter boxes, bird nesting boxes, bird feeders and wooden toys. "Anything we can think of," he says, "to utilise every last bit of wood." One of the first products was beer crates which are regularly requested in the store. "People use them as toy boxes and all sorts, we can't make them fast enough," he says.

When Neville first retired he quickly became bored. "There's only so many times you can mow the lawn," he says, though of course, he's still doing that. He and his wife Rowena lovingly care for their large garden.

His first voluntary role out of retirement was as a driver for Hospice for around four years. Then after a short break to "give this retirement carry on another try," he joined Habitat for Humanity, in a similar position. But truck driving and carting furniture is heavy work and his interest was piqued when he heard about the idea of a joinery shop for woodworking projects and what was originally dubbed 'the pallet remakery'.

"It's amazing what is donated including most of our tools and we have a pretty high spec workshop. Sometimes a builder will retire and bring us everything that was sitting under his house." This can include boxes of nails and screws, meaning that the items Neville makes generate 100 per cent profit.

The pallets themselves come from a couple of local companies. "They come up from Auckland full of plastic pipe for the plumbing industry. We get a lot of wood out of them. And it's good untreated pine."

So far, Neville has clocked up six years and he's very happy in his role.

"It's the camaraderie. When you're pushing 80, it's good to know you're still in the loop. I will keep going until I can't do it anymore. That's how much I love it."