Volunteers for recycling event put in good hands

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The “Large Metals” and “Electronics” sections battle the rain to collect people’s unwanted goods at the Meridian Recycling event. (Photo Credit: Michael Epps)

Bicycles get refurbished. Medicine gets incinerated. Latex paint gets remade and electronics get broken down. But the volunteers at the Meridian Recycling event? They always stay the same: strong, helpful, and happy to give back to their community.

The bi-annual Meridian Recycling event was held Saturday, Oct. 1, at Chippewa High School in Okemos. Nearly 75 volunteers served throughout the day in provided a source for residents to properly dispose of their unwanted goods.

“I can’t get over the number of people who are willing to spend their Saturday just to help out the community,” said Ellen Dillman, Volunteer Coordinator for the event. “They don’t get paid, it can be a dirty job, but they always come out and there’s camaraderie with them and they do their job. I can’t believe these volunteers keep coming back year after year.”

The operation runs deeper than recycling as the organization wants volunteers to get something out of it and feel appreciated.

“If they can’t be comfortable in the work that they’re doing, then that’s on me,” said Dillman, who recruits and organizes the volunteers. “I feel responsible for these people. I’m the one who’s out their publicly asking them to show up.”

The volunteers are given special accommodations for any physical challenges, which puts them in positions to be as efficient as possible. Ruth Akins, a volunteer who was unloading documents from people’s cars, said the operation couldn’t be better for her and the other volunteers.

“I feel like everybody works together in cooperation and everything works out perfectly,” said Akins, who is in her fourth year of participating. “They have a very good plan in place that is laid out just right.”

LeRoy Harvey, Head Coordinator of Meridian Township Recycling, works on this plan over a month in advance and said the volunteers are the cornerstones of this event.

“They’re all so enthusiastic because it’s such a feel good event,” Harvey said. “Word gets out through the neighborhood groups and we get a lot of involvement from the community. We’ve kept a steady amount of regular volunteers and it’s been going smoother as time goes on.”

Volunteers are also provided a break spot inside the school with food and coffee available whenever they need to recharge. Bagels from Panera Bread, donuts from Tom’s food market, and eggs from Titus Farms are only some of the contributions for the morning shift. Pizza and sandwiches are provided in the afternoon, and Bigby’s coffee is always a contributor to the cause.

Elaine Putvin, Volunteer Food Coordinator for Meridian Recycling events, sought out donations from all the restaurants around the area to get a large selection of options.

“It’s pretty gratifying when people come in and their eyes pop open and they say ‘woah, they said I could come get coffee but I didn’t know there were donuts and bagels and eggs,’” said Putvin.  “They’re happy and I think it makes them feel appreciated, makes them know that we’re taking care of them.

The volunteers feel the appreciation, and they reciprocate with hard work of their own.

“We had a handful of people that stayed long past the time that cars were coming through to help clean up, and that’s a huge boost,” said Dillman. “It makes it all worthwhile when you’re tired and you still have so much to do and you just want to get home. They help out so much and we appreciate it so much.”

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