Re­cy­cling cen­ter con­tin­ues to serve Bella Vista

The Weekly Vista - - News - LYNN ATKINS latkins@nwadg.com

While some vol­un­teers are run­ning ma­chin­ery and pick­ing up card­board, an­other group meets in a small of­fice for an hour a month and makes the de­ci­sions that keep the Bella Vista Re­cy­cling Cen­ter run­ning smoothly. The board of di­rec­tors of the Bella Vista Re­cy­cling Cen­ter Foun­da­tion is made up of seven vol­un­teers.

The cen­ter was started as part of the lo­cal AARP chap­ter in 1973. The chap­ter is now in­ac­tive, but the Re­cy­cle Cen­ter is go­ing strong with its own board.

Be­fore 2012, the cen­ter was com­pletely op­er­ated by vol­un­teers, but now there are sev­eral peo­ple who work as con­tracted la­bor­ers along­side the vol­un­teers. Un­for­tu­nately, that takes some money away from the grants the cen­ter gives out each month.

At last week’s meet­ing, board mem­ber Wally Shel­don said he planned to speak to Mayor Peter Christie about a pos­si­ble source of la­bor. When the new Bella Vista Court opens and peo­ple are as­signed com­mu­nity ser­vice, they could be sent to the Re­cy­cle Cen­ter, Shel­don said. Other towns in the area have a pol­icy like that, he said. He hoped that Christie could speak to the judge and push for that pol­icy.

Shel­don has vol­un­teered with the Re­cy­cling Cen­ter since about 1997 when the cen­ter was lo­cated near the Lake Ann Dam. He’s been on the board since about 1999.

Al­though he wasn’t work­ing there those first few years, Shel­don re­searched the Cen­ter’s his­tory and found some in­ter­est­ing facts.

Pro­ceeds from the Re­cy­cle Cen­ter paid much of the orig­i­nal fur­nish­ing at Rior­dan Hall, in­clud­ing the first cur­tain for the stage, the first chairs and much of the kitchen equip­ment.

At that point, vol­un­teers used their own per­sonal ve­hi­cles, he said, and the cen­ter owned two balers. They baled plas­tic in a baler that mea­sured 18 by 18. There was no run­ning wa­ter at the orig­i­nal site, so vol­un­teers had to bring their own wa­ter for cof­fee and use a por­ta­ble toi­let. The Re­cy­cle Cen­ter moved to its cur­rent lo­ca­tion in 2001 and added new balers.

When Shel­don started, the cen­ter was do­nat­ing funds, but it didn’t have the for­mal grant pro­gram that pro­vides funds based on the num­ber of hours worked by vol­un­teers at a non­profit. In­stead, he re­mem­bered, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from var­i­ous non­prof­its would just show up at board meet­ings with their re­quests. When that be­came un­man­age­able, the re­cy­cling vol­un­teers turned to the AARP chap­ter for help.

For a time in the early 2000s, the AARP chap­ter av­er­aged 100 mem­bers at each meet­ing and it formed a grant re­view com­mit­tee that made rec­om­men­da­tions to the AARP board. If the board agreed, the en­tire chap­ter voted on the grants. As ac­tive mem­bers of the AARP chap­ter dwin­dled, the Foun­da­tion Board had to step in and take back the grant process. Now the trea­surer looks at the vol­un­teer hours ded­i­cated to each ap­proved non­profit and makes a rec­om­men­da­tion. The board must vote to ap­prove.

The Fly Ty­ers, Shel­don said, was among the first lo­cal groups to get re­cy­cling grants and con­tinue to re­ceive them. They spend the re­cy­cling money on com­mu­nity projects, like fish habi­tat in the lakes and fish clean­ing sta­tions.

“We even re­cy­cle the money,” Shel­don said.

Rae Jean Hester, the board’s trea­surer, showed the rest of the board an up­dated flier that con­tains in­for­ma­tion about the Cen­ter, in­clud­ing hours and the ma­te­ri­als ac­cepted. She is also work­ing on an up­dated web­site.

The new flier and the up­dated web­site will em­pha­size what ma­te­ri­als the cen­ter ac­cepts and which ones it doesn’t ac­cept.

“The buy­ers make the rules,” Pres­i­dent Paul Poulides said.

Not all plas­tic can be ac­cepted, for ex­am­ple. The Cen­ter can use only plas­tics la­beled #1 (trans­par­ent wa­ter and soda bot­tles, ei­ther clear or with a green tint) or #2 (trans­par­ent milk jugs or col­ored opaque bot­tles such as de­ter­gent bot­tles.)

One of the vol­un­teer jobs at the cen­ter is to make sure the bins are filled with only the items that can be baled and sold to­gether. If a vol­un­teer fishes out the wrong kind of plas­tic, it has to be thrown away and that just adds to the cen­ter’s trash bill.

But since there are vol­un­teers check­ing the bins, Bella Vista has a rep­u­ta­tion for sell­ing only pure prod­ucts.

“If we were a dairy, all our prod­ucts would be Grade A,” Shel­don said.

“If we were a dairy, all our prod­ucts would be Grade A." Wally Shel­don Bella Vista Re­cy­cling Cen­ter board mem­ber

Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista

Mem­bers of the Re­cy­cle Cen­ter’s Foun­da­tion Board are all vol­un­teers. They meet once a month to ap­prove ex­penses — in­clud­ing grants — and talk about is­sues rang­ing from a vol­un­teer din­ner to li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance. Pic­tured are Chuck See­ley, Wally Shel­don, Bud Tay­lor, Rae Jean Hester and Paul Poulides.

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