Just a year ago in November, the Church Council endorsed the idea of Recycle for a Reason, a project in which the community is given the opportunity to recycle their usable household items and we, acting as middle women/men, find homes for those items. We wondered at the time if we could collect things month after month and not exhaust the ‘wealth’ of the community. And would we find people and organizations in need of our community’s abundance?
The inspiration for the project came from the closure of the last thrift store in the area, the last place that would accept donations. We thought the ecological and mission minded people would be forced between two alternatives, cart their usable, but unneeded, items to Anchorage or take them to the curb for refuse pick-up And what would they do with large items? We knew there was angst in the community over this dilemma.
By putting posters in stores around the community and taking out ads in the local papers, we tried to spread the word about our proposed recycling project. We also put out road signs directing people to our Church. We soon found that people simply followed the signs or saw us on Craigslist, so we quit wasting our money on other advertisements! As a precaution, we decided to only accept items on the last and the first Saturdays of each month and only from 10 a.m.to 3 p.m. We feared (as other non-profits in the area have experienced) heaps of donations cluttering the entrance to the church, ruined by the weather.
As it turned out, because of a grateful community, we have never exceeded the capacity of our small dumpster (people bring usable items and very little junk.) and there is an ever increasing stream of donations. The amount seems to grow every month. Now our fears have changed to … are we too successful? Will we soon exceed our space?
The “business” plan for the project included giving away as much as possible to people in need. To maximize our outreach, we decided to help existing organizations accomplish their already established missions. To that end, we began offering any of the donated items that could be used by their clients or for their administrative needs, all at no charge. The number of receiving organizations grew slowly but has expanded to 37. Some are governmental agencies, educational institutions, churches, social service organizations and individuals in our church who have recognized a neighbor in need.
An added bonus has been the monthly sale after the distributions. To make it easier on ourselves, we display all items in a consistent pattern and allow each shopper to “Name Your Own Price”. After expenses, the monetary donations are deposited in a designated account for mission. The fund has grown and the joy of supporting local, state and world-wide mission has been rewarding beyond measure.
To give you an overview, at our November sale, we gave things to 20 different organizations, sometimes in pick-up loads, from Anchorage to Palmer and points in between. We gave the leftovers to Big Brothers, Big Sisters and set the rest out near the road for FREE. Usable rags went to a local airplane painter and the ‘slickery’ stuff was taken to Anchorage to be made into recycled fabric. Plus $3,200 was designated for grants to mission projects! God is good!
Of course, all this takes over 180 woman-hours (and to a lesser degree, man-hours) per month. Is it worth it? So far we think so!