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Scraps KC finds treasure in the trash

By In the News, Uncategorized

January 20, 2021  Beth Lipoff

Photo by Travis Young / Scraps KC is Kansas City’s first creative reuse center. Scraps KC is located at 3269 Roanoke Rd, Kansas City, MO 64111.

If you’re artistic but don’t fancy dumpster-diving to find inspiring materials, there’s a much cleaner way to find objects to recycle into creative endeavors. Scraps KC has been repackaging and repurposing artsy materials for years. 

In the last four years, they’ve steered approximately 170 tons of supplies away from landfills, estimates Brenda Mott, Scraps KC’s executive director.

“We educate people on the environment. We try to focus on reduce, reuse, and refuse, rather than recycle, because recycling uses a lot of our precious resources,” Mott says. 

Scraps KC partners with schools and educators in a few ways. A few schools collect end of year school supplies that kids would throw out and give them to Scraps KC, and Scraps KC provides many educators with classroom supplies when they need them.

Photo by Travis Young / Rachel Morningstar sifting through wooden blocks at Scraps KC. Scraps KC is Kansas City’s frist creative reuse center. Scraps KC is located at 3269 Roanoke Rd, Kansas City, MO 64111.

And there’s a bonus—the profits go toward helping homeless folks in Kansas City as well as education programs.

“Our main goal is to transform things that are unwanted into things that have value, whether it’s a half-used tube of paint, and it creates a beautiful picture, or whether it’s somebody who sleeps on the street, and we can provide some friendship, some food, hopefully move them off the street and walk with them as they move into a new environment,” Mott says. “Those are the transformations that we love to see.”

It’s not just the money that helps, either. Mott encourages anyone to volunteer, homeless or housing secure, and everyone works together to clean and restore materials. She estimates between one and five homeless volunteers turn up each day, with many returning weekly or monthly.

“It breaks down barriers of our community members with the homeless as they work side-by-side with them,” Mott says.

Photo by Travis Young / Chelsey Davis looking through art supplies at Scraps KC. Scraps KC is Kansas City’s frist creative reuse center. Scraps KC is located at 3269 Roanoke Rd, Kansas City, MO 64111.

Although they do provide some supplies to homeless people, it’s truly a team effort. Those who receive supplies volunteer inside the store.

“We also think it also builds them up and helps them feel differently about themselves gives them hope for moving forward. Not everyone wants to get off the street, but we want to be here to support them. Even those people who want to stay on the street forever, they may come to us for real information,” Mott says.

Many homeless folks came to them for pandemic information in the face of numerous rumors they’d heard. 

This whole operation didn’t all come together immediately. When Mott started, she thought she’d recycle milk jugs and fruit clamshells—but there was a problem.

“It turned out nobody wanted those,” Mott says. “Then all of the sudden, the creative community had heard of us, and they started bringing us paints and specialty papers and textiles and that’s really where we transformed what we reused and what we sold for reuse.”

In addition to paints and papers, Scraps KC has a large stock of fabric, notions—and pretty much anything else you might need to express yourself creatively. All of it is based on donations.

“We’ve never done any advertising or marketing. Everything is word of mouth or social media. People come for specific reasons [like] art supplies they don’t want to give to another resale store. They know somebody who really wants them is going to find them here,” Mott says.

Folks helping their parents downsize might bring in the entire contents of a sewing room.

A color-coordinated assortment of fabrics at Scraps KC. // Photo by Travis Young

“We sometimes get very neatly organized donations, like a nice baggie full of pom-poms. Sometimes, we get a drawer dumped into a box. Sometimes, we get one pom-pom,” Mott says.

That’s where the volunteers shine. They measure, sort, and repackage things so they’re more useful to those who come to shop at Scraps KC.

Gladstone resident Blaine Shepherd, a graduate student studying costuming, missed working in his school’s costume shop as he took his classes online. He found Scraps KC when he went hunting for fabric.

“I really like doing the mundane tasks of rolling the fabric and organizing it and making it look good. Now they utilize my skills in fabric identification and what I know through costuming. I give advice on what I would want to buy or what’s the worst of something,” he says. 

Although he volunteers in the store once a week, he also brings home projects to work on in between his shifts.

“It’s really nice to be appreciated for those skills when you don’t have a costume shop where you can channel those skills,” Shepherd says.

Kaitlin West makes Christmas crafts with her 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter in the Make and Take section of the store. // Photo by Travis Young

For Nora Utech, a physical therapist from Lenexa, volunteering was a way to get out of the house.

“It’s nice for me to have a task where I can use my hands and unplug from technology for a bit. There’s always something to do, always something different,” Utech says.

The welcoming atmosphere has also made Utech’s experience a good one.

“Everybody there has been really friendly. They treat you with a lot of respect. [They’re] welcoming to all walks of life,” she says.

Both Shepherd and Utech began volunteering during the pandemic.

True to its varied stock, Scraps KC does a little bit of everything, from working with a community garden to advising Girl Scouts on STEM to teaching individuals how they can best help people who are homeless.

“It all blends together so beautifully. We’re able to take seeds and replant them from vegetables we may have had. Then we teach kids about the garden and use that food to feed the homeless,” Mott says. “It’s just this whole cycle of how things intertwine so easily.”


Scraps KC

3269 Roanoke Rd, Kansas City, MO

scrapskc.org

Scraps KC continues to hold workshops on Zoom and at its 3269 Roanoke Road location, with social distancing and masks.

For more information on their programs, visit scrapskc.org/eventsCATEGORIES: CULTURETags: ArtBlaine ShepherdBrenda Mottcreative reuseeducationenvironmental awarenessNora UtechScraps KCvolunteering

Creative Reuse As School Supply Solution

By Uncategorized

A teacher’s heart for their students overflows with love. The desire to make educational tools accessible to all of their students has them continually reaching into their own pocketbook. Underpaid, often underappreciated, and a lack of resources would cause others to leave their job. Teachers are creative and steadfast in their endeavor to educate children. ScrapsKC’s education pillar of our mission supports our local teachers with free and inexpensive school supplies.

At the end of every school year, hundreds of thousands of pounds of gently used and unused school supplies throughout Kansas City find their way into the landfill. Classroom teachers dig through school trash cans to recover supplies their students irreverently deemed unnecessary for further use. Over the last four years, ScrapsKC has partnered with area schools to collect these unwanted supplies before they reach the trash can. Community members and homeless have come together to clean and repurpose over 30,000 pounds of school supplies during the last four years. 

Over 700 teachers serving tens of thousands of students have received these supplies for free. Teachers have cried. First year teachers who hadn’t received a paycheck were overjoyed with free supplies. Friends bring friends. And some teachers drive two hours for free supplies. 

Each year we hear new stories of the impact the repurposed supplies make on children struggling to learn:  

  • children whose parents can’t pay the electric bill let alone buy them a pencil for school; 
  • children whose parents work as Itinerant farm workers picking the fruits and vegetables that grace our tables but barely earning enough for their own basic subsistence; and
  • children who couch surf every night because their parent is abusive or addicted and can’t care for them. 

Who will furnish them school supplies? Teachers will.

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai

Learning How To Help the Homeless

By Uncategorized

Serving the homeless of Kansas City for over 12 years, Jeff and Brenda have received an education that you can’t find in any book. Learning about life on the streets and how to care for the homeless took years of building trust and relationships with hundreds of homeless they now call friends.

At ScrapsKC we receive a multitude of questions from our customers on the best way to help the homeless. Here are the top 10 things we teach people about serving the homeless.  

  1. Always be safe. 
  2. Serve from your car window. The car serves as a protective barrier between you and a stranger. 
  3. Give items that keep a homeless person safe and healthy. Food, seasonal items (hand warmers/bug wipes) and clothing (underwear/mittens) are most important to daily survival.
  4. Never give money. They receive plenty of money from other people and it is most often used for purchasing drugs and alcohol.
  5. Hand out peanut butter crackers instead of granola bars. Most homeless have no teeth or severe dental issues and cannot eat hard food. Peanut butter also provides good energy not sugared energy.
  6. A roll of toilet paper, good socks and pop-top can of ravioli are good things to offer a homeless person.
  7. Oranges over bananas and apples. Bananas will smoosh in their backpack and rodents will eat through their backpack in search of the food. Apples are too hard to eat with dental issues.
  8. Everything is a commodity in the homeless economic system. Be wise in what you give.
  9. Never enter a homeless camp.
  10. Wave and smile. It always brightens someone’s day.

Curiosity, Learning & Creative Reuse In KC

By Uncategorized

We are curious. Always fascinated with the possibility of the world. We believe that learning takes place wherever you are. We teach and learn everyday. Education is deeply ingrained in ScrapsKC’s work. It has to be when your mission is “Creative Reuse.”

Over the last few weeks we’ve told you about ScrapsKC’s programs to protect Kansas City’s environment through material reuse and to help the homeless through personal renewal. In our final installment we’d like to show you how the third program  – education – underlies all our efforts.

KC’s Manufacturing Core As Learning Resource

Kansas City is a wonderfully creative city with a small town feel. But, hidden away in parts of Kansas City is a large manufacturing industry. Chinet plates, squeegees, beer, cars, rubber gaskets and a multitude of everyday items are just some of the things manufactured in Kansas City.  At ScrapsKC, we see the manufacturing industry as an opportunity to learn!

Manufacturing creates waste and ScrapsKC wants to keep that waste out of the landfill. ScrapsKC works tirelessly to find manufacturers creating byproducts that can be creatively reused. But, part of our quest is to learn more about the manufacturing processes so we can educate our customers about Kansas City industries, the environmental impact and the opportunities created by manufacturing.

The rubber pieces (above) are by-products from the squeegee industry. These colorful shapes are punched out of rubber strips before they are attached to the metal squeegee handle. Because rubber takes decades to break down in our landfills we give these little pellets another life. Teachers love them for classroom sensory boxes, they make a great mosaic and the shapes are perfect for a math lesson.

There’s more than just the by-products to learn about from manufacturing scraps. Think about the job skills required to make these items. Art, design, engineering, math, and machine operation are some hard skills needed to manufacture items. But, what about the soft skills, like problem solving, risk taking, awareness of the world around you, and working with others? These are the rich educational conversations we have with our customers at ScrapsKC by encouraging creative reuse. 

There are some unusual stories about unique products that have been manufactured (ask Brenda about the Weasand clip donation). Our mission to educate our community, about our community is paramount. Expand your knowledge. Become fascinated with the possibilities of the world. Come visit ScrapsKC.

When Life Comes Full Circle

By Uncategorized

Posted on  by truelifehotmessmom

Original story here.

Homelessness is real. Poverty is real. Hunger is real.

Statistics show that on any given day there is between 6,000-10,000 homeless people in Missouri. This includes individuals, minors, and families. Thousands suffer from chronic homelessness and they are the ones we see living under bridges.

Thankfully, I have been blessed and have never experienced homelessness to that extreme. But I have experienced poverty and hunger.

During my sophomore year of high school, I volunteered with the Interact Club and stood next to a barrel at a local grocery store and asked people to donate dry goods for local families in need. The next year, my junior year, my mom suffered from chronic depression, quit her job, and holed herself up in her bedroom. We were hungry and without power for several weeks. The same organization I volunteered for, donated food from their food pantry to us. I will never forget the excitement to see such variety of foods followed by deflation as I realized we didn’t have electricity to heat any of the food up or cook it. But that didn’t stop me from popping the top off of the ravioli and scarfing it down cold. It was the most delicious can of ravioli I’d ever had.

Just recently I shared this story with my bestie as I reminisced about those days finding connections to my poor eating habits now: binge eating and what not. I don’t know why this story weighs my heart down and makes me sad, because it shouldn’t. The organization I worked hard to bless, blessed us in return.

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but someday you will.” ~John 13:7

Yesterday, Linda’s girl scout troop volunteered at Scraps KC to feed the homeless. We cooked and prepared hot ham and cheese english muffin sandwiches. Then, we wrapped them in foil so they would be hot and do more than just fill their tummies. Something about a hot breakfast when you’re so down and out has to help your overall mental health too.

Not only did we make them breakfast, we packed essentials into a pick-up truck. Pants, sweaters, t-shirts, underwear, socks, hand warmers, gloves, hats, scarves, toilet trees, first aid items, and so much more.

Before we headed out, the sweet lady at Scraps KC Brenda, who started this four years ago, sat us down and talked about ways we could continue to help the homeless long after our experience with her. She showed us a variety of items we could keep in our cars to hand out when we come to a crossroad and see a homeless person standing at the corner. She mentioned that peanut butter crackers are a great item instead of granola bars because most of them have no teeth or sore teeth and have a hard time eating them. This was something I had never thought of.

Then she held up a can of ravioli. “This is one of their favorite things to get. They will tip it back and even drink the juice.”

It was everything I could do to hold back the tears. The memory of scarfing down a can of ravioli, cold, flooded every inch of my emotions.

“Just tape a fork to the side and keep it in your car for those moments you encounter a homeless person.”

Linda looked at me and I winked. I knew what she was thinking. She was already planning our afternoon.

With heavy hearts and nervous stomachs we drove over to our destination. Brenda had gone to the same location every Saturday morning for four years. A line of homeless individuals were patiently waiting for our arrival. She opened up the bed of the pick up truck, took a seat, and started talking to them on a first name basis. She knew nearly every single one of them.

The girls quickly jumped in and started handing out sandwiches, hand warmers, and socks. Once we got comfortable, we started helping them find items they needed from the pick-up truck. They all used their manners and said please and thank you as we assisted them. As I walked around with hats and scarves a gentleman paused to look at the selection. Unfortunately, all I had were pink and purple items. I joked about not having any neutral tones this winter and with that, he chuckled. I went back to the truck and found a blue hat. He was pretty tickled about that. He commented, “It isn’t neutral but I’ll take it.” And then he smiled his best smile.

This got me all loosened up and I started talking to them like I’d known them my whole life. I met a gentleman who fought for our freedom and after a flash bomb burned his retinas, he was nearly blind and couldn’t hold a job. He was probably my age or young 40’s. I thanked him for his dedication to fighting for our country and found him the items he needed. I desperately looked for some sun glasses since the sun was making it even harder for him to see. I told Brenda that he could use some and she assured me she would bring him some next weekend.

She cares for each one of them as if they are family. She said they look out for her as well. They let her know who she should watch out for and have even made a circle around her when a fight broke out to protect her. My heart still swells at the thought. Though she assured us that fights are rare and has only happened one time.

As we were leaving, a young couple approached the truck. They were new to the area and were recently homeless. They had nothing. I stocked them up with whatever items were left and even gave up my super duper soft scarf because we were out. She had tears in her eyes and was extremely grateful. I hugged both of them and asked their names so I could pray for them. I’ve probably said their names over and over a million times in the past 24 hours thinking about where they are right now.

These people are real.

Brenda mentioned that a lot of these individuals are homeless because of a traumatic event that occurred when they were younger and they don’t honestly have the skills necessary to hold a job and take care of themselves. The stigma that they are lazy and don’t want to work is ridiculous.

Afterwards, Linda, her friend, and I went straight to the grocery store and purchased 12 cans of ravioli. The girls taped forks to the sides and wrote letters of encouragement for the cans as well.

I had no idea how valuable a cold can of ravioli could be, but boy has it taught me a lot. Everything comes full circle, even decades later.

Count your blessings my friends.