KEEN Utility Volunteer Boot Library

We recently teamed up with our friends at the ReBuilding Center to create a boot library! The ReBuilding Center is one of KEEN’s favorite non-profits, located just a short bike ride away from our headquarters in Portland, OR. They specialize in providing reclaimed building materials at little or no cost for individuals, small businesses, and other grassroots organizations looking to complete a project. They also provide deconstruction services as a sustainable alternative to conventional demolition.

It’s run by a small staff and over 2,000 volunteers, who all require sturdy, steel toe boots when working at the center or helping with a demolition. We recently met with Sean O’Connor, the Strategic Coordinator at ReBuilding Center, who said that mandating steel toe footwear for deconstruction projects has decreased their volunteer pool. “A lot of people came in to help but couldn’t do the tasks because they didn’t have the proper footwear,” he explained.

That’s when O’Connor, who is also a KEEN brand ambassador, reached out to KEEN Utility and established the start of the Volunteer Boot Library. We now donate new KEEN Utility boots that are functional, but not sellable due to small imperfections to color or stitching. Volunteers can check out a pair of boots for their volunteer day, just like at a bowling alley. This allows them to stay safe and comfortable while de-nailing lumber, packaging trim, grading salvaged lumber and loading and securing materials in trucks.

O’Connor said these boots have been a “huge morale booster” for the organization’s staff. “We didn’t want to buy new footwear, and we can’t expect volunteers to spend a lot of money on shoes,” he said. “We use re-purposed all the way through, and it was a great opportunity for us to work with a local business.”

Outreach and Strategic Coordinator, Sean O’Connor

Walking into the workroom

The handcrafted entrance made entirely of repurposed materials

We caught Mayela mid-laugh. She’s longtime employee and an expert glass cutter

The KEEN boot library at the Rebuilding Center


Just when we thought we saw all of the center, we turned a corner and found the expansive lumber yard

Another entrance to the Rebuilding Center

A pair of KEENs on the job

Every color in the cabinet rainbow

The view of TRC along Mississippi street

 Photos: Euri Park for KEEN Footwear