Former GE Engineer is at Home in the Test Room as a Williamsburg ReStore Volunteer
George Belanger loves to tinker.
Imagine finding a volunteer job that allows you to do just that. Belanger is a longtime volunteer at the Habitat ReStore in Williamsburg, and what’s called “the test room” is where you’ll find him most.
The ReStore’s inventory includes donated appliances, tools and other electrical items. Everything is sold in working order with profits benefitting the mission of Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg. The nonprofit builds homes that are then sold to local community members who qualify through Habitat’s Homebuyer Program.
Belanger worked for General Electric for 40 years as an electrical engineer. He was based out of Roanoke, but had an affinity for Williamsburg, where he and his wife, Carol, honeymooned 49 years ago. They had a house built there in 1997, when Carol, as a grandmother, decided to earn a degree from William and Mary. Belanger traveled back and forth for years between Roanoke and Williamsburg, and the couple retired to another home there in 2012.
“We were here when the Williamsburg ReStore opened,” Belanger said.
As a GE employee, Belanger had volunteered with his coworkers on Habitat builds. He supported the mission, so it only seemed natural to volunteer again when he had more time as a retiree.
“I like fixing things,” says Belanger, who will often take home small electronics to work on there. “And I like knowing that everything is going to a good cause. It’s going to building houses that people really need.”
Belanger is in the Williamsburg ReStore 90 minutes before it opens on Tuesdays and Thursdays and stays until after it closes. He often adds on other shifts to average 20-25 hours per week. Most of the time, he’s in the testing room, where he verifies everything works as it should. He recently spent the day testing six electrical stoves, for example, checking the heating elements and digital displays. Everything is cleaned thoroughly, too, before being moved to the showroom floor.
In addition to appliances, Belanger tinkers with clocks of all kinds; he has a special affinity for grandfather clocks that he often rechains and lubricates. He tackles power and garden tools, as well as the abundance of AM/FM high end receivers received. While everything donated should be in working order, he often makes small repairs or prepares discarded items for recycling.
“I do testing, cleaning, repairing, evaluating, all of it,” he says.
As Williamsburg is a town full of retirees, Belanger encourages others like himself to consider volunteering at the ReStore, where the hours can fit your schedule. For information on becoming a volunteer in Williamsburg with Belanger, contact Volunteer Coordinator Kelcey Moeller at firstname.lastname@example.org.