Peter has the brightest, warmest smile that's so welcoming it's like meeting an old friend.
Joe's a bit of a character who enjoys a laugh and has an easy, laid back way about him.
They come from different backgrounds – Peter earns a crust in the hospitality industry and Joe's worked in construction for 30-odd years.
But what both men have in common is they've both been sentenced to community work and are working off their hours at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore shop in Whangārei.
Both are kept busy with a variety of jobs in and around the large store, paying penance for past bad decisions.
Shop manager Alan Cowan is the only person in the building who knows their crimes, and it doesn't matter to him anyway.
Whether they're offenders on community-based sentences working off their hours as part of the Whangarei Community Corrections programme, or volunteers putting in time off their own bat, all are treated with equal doses of fairness and respect.
All volunteers go through the same induction process and learn about Habitat for Humanity's wonderful work laying the foundations for better lives.
"We don't discriminate," Cowan said.
"When they step into the store, they are given respect and treated equally to everyone else. When people find they are accepted for just being themselves rather than the situation that got them into trouble, they respond well. That's part of our success.
"I'm willing to give anyone a go if they're willing to give it a go themselves. But they need to want to be here."
Joe and Peter are among 30,000 people on community-based sentences in New Zealand.
Community work, usually between 40 and 400 hours, is the sentence imposed by the courts for the least serious offending.
Hours are completed either as part of a work party, overseen by a community work supervisor, or as part of an agency placement.
Community work teams can be involved in a range of projects such as building predator traps, clearing waterways, building bike tracks and maintaining walkways and picnic areas.
In the past, offenders helped refurbish a new homeless shelter in Whangārei and they are currently helping to restore the historic battle site, Ruapekapeka Pā, for the 175th anniversary in 2021.
"Community work is also our most common sentence and offers a way to give something back to the community," probation practice manager Graham Wainwright said.
"As much as possible we try to ensure that the projects are a best fit for the community and for the individuals completing the work.
"We also try to ensure projects are as close to the service centre as possible to minimise travel and are not beyond an hour's travel."
Cowan has been at ReStore nearly six years. The Corrections programme was introduced to his shop five years ago.
He takes on between 15 to 25 volunteers from all walks of life at any one time.
It doesn't take long to see their confidence boosted and a "better side" begin to shine through.
"When they first come in, they're very nervous, but we're family orientated here and want to make everyone welcome," Cowan said.
"After a while they feel part of the family and they relax and enjoy what they're doing.
"We're also DIY, so they get into working with their hands and learn new skills. It's about giving them the power to try some different in life and to move forward."
Pete and Joe sort through the donated items of furniture and appliances then set about trying to repair them. They stack shelves, rearrange items on the shop floor and help wherever is needed.
Their skills come in handy and they're matched so they will succeed.
Other volunteers help with upcycling, merchandising, manning the till or helping in the office.
Pete said he's learned patience and commitment, while Joe likes the camaraderie and inclusive environment.
"It makes you feel part of the work group; you're valued," Joe said.
Effie loves it so much she's still here, long after finishing her 50 hours last year.
The Whangārei resident pops in regularly to help while looking for a job.
Cowan is writing her a character reference which will help. Overall, the experience had been a great stepping-stone into the workforce, she said.
If Effie could have it her way, she'd stay on forever.
She keeps coming back for three reasons: the people, the environment and "knowing you're helping".
"It's like we're our own family over here," Effie said. "We're helping each other whether it be personally or in the community itself.
"It's an amazing environment for people to get to know others, no matter what you're here for."
It's a win-win for Habitat for Humanity, too.
Being a non-for-profit organisation, it keeps costs down so they can focus on the big stuff, which is pooling resources to build simple, affordable housing in low-income areas, both in New Zealand and overseas.
The 20 Habitat for Humanity ReStores dotted around the country from Whangārei to Invercargill accept, restore and resell new and used items. The funds generated bolster Habitat's building programmes.
Habitat for Humanity has supported more than 600 people through their sentences over the past five years.
Figures from the Department of Corrections show a total of about 1.1 million hours were completed by nearly 15,000 offenders in New Zealand last year.
Of those, 80,000 hours were completed by nearly 1000 offenders in Northland.
Whangārei Corrections service manager Nyree Brown said Corrections placed offenders with non-profit, charitable agencies, so jobs were not taken off people who needed them.
It was an effective tool to help reduce reoffending and helped keep the prison population down, she said.
It also taught them valuable life skills like time management and the importance of being reliable, in preparation for getting, and holding down, a job.
"It's a sentence of reparation to the community," Brown said.
"They need to be work hardened; this is like a job.
"They come in like any other volunteer, they are treated like any other volunteer, they are supervised, but not made to feel like a criminal.
"They're treated with respect, they learn skills, they're given positive feedback.
"It's a mana-enhancing experience."
For Cowan, the measure of success is that people keep coming back after they've worked off their sentences.
"Not because they have to, but because they want to, because they enjoy it so much.
"For them to come back of their own accord and for them to want to keep helping us is the biggest compliment ever.
"It's humbling for me; I feel like I'm doing something for my local community, and that means everything."
Cowan credits his dad for passing on the philosophy that everyone deserves a second chance.
"It was the way we were brought up. Everyone makes mistakes in life, it's not for me to judge them, it's for me to help them."
A stitch in time
Hospice Mid-Northland and Northland Region Corrections Facility have teamed up with a creative idea to upcycle items destined for landfill.
Jeans, linen and bedding donated to the hospice op shop that aren't suitable to be sold are sorted and sent to the new prison sewing class.
The male prisoners then transform the items into useful bags.
Corrections officer Joanne Hammerton – who runs the workshops - said the prisoners were now dedicated to the sewing workshops five mornings a week.
"Denim jeans and T-shirts become trendy shoulder bags, which are used in the hospice's local charity shops," she said.
"The sewing class teaches the men valuable life skills, as well as giving them the chance to contribute to the community."
The men create a range of items, including handmade quilts, which are donated to charitable organisations and hospitals.
"Despite initially considering sewing 'women's work', the participants in the sewing workshop were dedicated to their work," Hammerton said.