Volunteers in the Community

Volunteers Wayne Boushee and Tom Petersen insert wires into the baling machine to form a bale of cardboard at Waterville Recycling Center Oct. 13. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

 

By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

Ask almost anyone in Waterville: volunteers are crucial to the working of our community. Volunteers fight fires, help people who are experiencing medical emergencies, keep the NCW Fair running, provide sports opportunities for children, keep our local Thrift Store open, feed the hungry and much more. This article, about the volunteers that run the Waterville Recycling Center, is the first in a series that will focus on the efforts of volunteers and their contribution in our community.

 

Volunteer Eileen Bone drives the forklift at the Recycling Center Oct. 13. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

In 1996 when Jim and Eileen Bone retired from the military and returned to Eileen’s hometown of Waterville, they assumed that volunteering would be a part of their return to civilian life.

“That’s what you did. You helped out in the community,” Eileen Bone said.

Bone’s parents, Doc and Alice Hill, had just set up the Recycling Center in Waterville the year before and there were lots of needs there.

The east side of the building was completely open, which proved to be especially challenging the winter of 1996 because it was a cold year. The recycling process still needed to be organized. Jim and Eileen Bone pitched in and helped the center get off to a strong start.

Eileen Bone has been helping ever since. She is at the Recycling Center when it is open every Tuesday and Saturday afternoon and she helps to collect recycling totes from the school, and to bale up recyclables outside of operating hours. She is also the Waterville representative for waste reduction and recycling on Douglas County’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee. In this capacity, she helps to negotiate with Michelsen Packaging Company for prices for recycled products and helps to develop other policies countywide.

Asked what keeps her going at the Recycling Center, Bone said it is the townspeople who are so committed to recycling.

“It’s incredible that Waterville continues to be number one in Douglas County for (recycled) commodities per population,” Bone said.

During the first few years of operation the recycling center was short on volunteers. Several town council members stepped forward to help, and gradually a force of volunteers was built up.

Bob Borders, another key volunteer at the center, started to help in 1999. Like Bone, he helps almost every day the recycling center is open, and also gives additional time to help bale recyclables and collect paper and plastic from the school.

Borders joked that he helps because it’s “something to keep me out of trouble.”

More seriously, he added that he believes in recycling.

“It kind of gets in your blood,” Borders said.

Another regular volunteer, Tom Petersen, estimates that he has been helping for about three years now. Like Bone and Borders, Petersen often gives more time than the four hours a week the center is open. In addition to helping bale, he is the one that drives his truck about once a month when four large totes of paper and some containers of plastic are collected from the school.

Asked why he has decided to volunteer at the Recycling Center, Petersen started on the lighthearted side.

“It’s the coffee shop of Waterville,” he said.

Then he added that the Recycling Center needed help and he didn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be one of those to step forward.

“I’ve been volunteering all my life,” Petersen said.

A newer volunteer, Wayne Boushee, has been with the Recycling Center for about seven months. He started by hauling away metal recycling, and then thought he might as well also volunteer at the center.

Boushee said that both volunteering and recycling are a part of life for him.

“I don’t like this stuff to go in the garbage. It doesn’t make sense,” he said of the recyclables.

On any given day the center is open, the volunteers are busy meeting each vehicle as it drives in and helping customers to move their recycling items toward the appropriate bins. They have a small office that they can use to relax and to talk during the down times. They keep this area heated in the winter and use a fan to cool it down in the summer. They have a small refrigerator in there, a pot of coffee and a stash of baked goods.

Those who use the Recycling Center know that it not only does an excellent job of recycling paper, cardboard, tin, aluminum and clear plastics, but it also provides a forum to exchange other items.

There is a bookshelf for those who want to either get rid of or browse for free books. There is a separate pile for egg cartons that those who are raising chickens may feel free to take. Volunteers also keep stashes of five-gallon buckets and of good storage boxes.

“We save stuff because we know people will come looking for it,” Bone said.

Sometimes there are even notes posted on the office wall by people who need particular recyclable items for crafts or other uses.

The Recycling Center volunteers recently took a moment to calculate their average age. It came to 70.3 years.

The volunteers think it would be nice to lower that average a bit with some younger volunteers, though they would welcome volunteers of any age. Volunteers do have to be at least 18 years of age, though, because of liability concerns regarding recycling equipment.

Anyone interested in volunteering should stop by the Recycling Center during regular hours, which are 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays.