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Retirement home recycling program a hit on many levels

Retirement home recycling program a hit on many levels

Mennonite Central Committee and Chartwell’s Elmira Retirement Residence are finding new ways to better the community together.

Chartwell launched a new e-waste program earlier this year, which recycles broken and unsold appliances from the Elmira MCC Thrift Shop, while giving the retirement residence’s men a chance to tinker with tools and give back to the community at the same time.

The men remove the metal from small appliances and the metal is taken back to the thrift shop for them to sell as scrap.

Chartwell’s recreation manager, Vicky Rau, says she came up with the idea when she was looking for more programs they could run for the men.

“We have a program called H.O.P.E., Helping Others for Purposeful Engagement, and that’s a Chartwell Signature program. What they want us to do is to do things that we can give back to the community, so I thought what can we do to give back to the community while doing things? So I came up with this idea and I went over to talk to them and they were very much on board with it,” Rau said.

She notes it can be time-consuming for the thrift shop volunteers to take apart the donated appliances and this also saves space for the thrift shop by not having to store the broken and unsold items.

“They never put things in their store that don’t work but they might not sell or they get things and they plug them in and they don’t work. So then they keep them for me,” Rau said.

Rau says she never has to convince the men to participate in the program. They enjoy the challenge of taking different items apart and seeing the variety between old and new appliances. She notes the older appliances have much more metal to remove whereas new models have more plastic than metal.

“I take the material back to them and they get money for it and then that goes to help all of the good work the MCC does. So that’s our contribution to the community,” Rau said.

The men meet twice a month for the new program. Recreation manager Vicky Rau says it’s meaningful work for participants such as Frank Walter, seen here pulling apart a toaster. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
The men meet twice a month for the new program. Recreation manager Vicky Rau says it’s meaningful work for participants such as Frank Walter, seen here pulling apart a toaster. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

Six to eight men participate in the program which runs twice a month. It’s facilitated by volunteer John Thomson, who provides the tools and the know-how.

She says it’s specifically a men’s program because they seem to have more programs oriented toward the female residents.

“You’re always trying to find meaningful programs that have a purpose. It’s fine to have your social things and that but also you want to be useful,” Rau said.

She adds many of the residents spent their working life giving back and just because they’re retired doesn’t mean they don’t want to be productive.

“They love to work with their hands and work with tools and it’s fun taking things apart. They’re contributing. It’s a purposeful program,” Rau said.

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