‘It became a way to serve the community’

Krystle Wagner • Apr 4, 2019 at 2:00 PM

A fundraiser to replace a boiler system more than 10 years ago has led to a continued and thriving ministry for a Grand Haven church.

Since it launched the recycle ministry in 2008, First Christian Reformed Church has turned over more than 2.5 million pounds of recycled material. On average, the church recycles about 200,000 pounds a year, according to Joan Groenhout, who has volunteered for the ministry since it started.

When the ministry began the campaign to raise $30,000 to replace the church’s aging heating system, volunteers started picking up items discarded along area streets and roads, and people also dropped off items. Once the goal was met, they decided to continue the ministry because of the community’s “overwhelming” support and the ability to care for God’s earth, Groenhout said.

Groenhout said they know of at least 100 businesses, organizations, schools and other local churches that have dropped off or had items picked up for the ministry.

“It became a way to serve the community,” she said. “There is a huge need.”

In 2017, the ministry received a $10,000 grant from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation to purchase a box truck to go along with a van and trailer.

The ministry donates 10 percent of the monthly income from the program to a nonprofit organization. Ken Vandyke, another recycling ministry volunteer, researches organizations they can assist with the funding. He said they haven’t repeated the same nonprofit for the gift in three years.

Vandyke has been involved in the church’s appliance ministry for 25 years. That ministry, in partnership with Love in Action, provides donated appliances to families in need.

The money raised by the recycling program is also used to maintain the ministry’s vehicles, host 3-4 community events, and buy and give away children’s Bibles and DVDs. Groenhout said that part of the money is also being used for the church’s remodeling and vision to open the building to serve the community in different ways.

Twice each week, volunteers pick up items throughout the Tri-Cities area. To inquire about having something picked up, call 616-842-6370.

Items can also be dropped off 24/7 at the recycling garage, 1118 Colfax Ave., Grand Haven.

The ministry accepts anything metal or electronic, except TVs and computer monitors. They accept all kinds of metal — copper, brass, steel, aluminum, stainless. Whether if it’s rusty, broken or “like new,” volunteers can recycle it.

Over the years, the ministry has received items such as ATMs, musical instruments, race car parts and pieces, old desks, and file cabinets.

After collecting items, volunteers sort wires and metals, because they have different values, Groenhout said.

Thirty-five regular volunteers ages 5-80 are involved in the ministry. They work Monday through Friday in a variety of capacities.

The church previously hosted a monthly weekend recycling event that gathered 80,000 to 100,000 pounds, but it was taxing on the volunteers, Groenhout said. By changing to a pick-up service throughout the area twice a week, it’s more accessible for residents and better for the volunteers, she said.

The ministry takes the items to Padnos’ Black River Recycling in Holland. Groenhout said the Padnos company has taught them how to sort and separate items for recycling.

When a collected item still has some life left in it, volunteers will sell it online. Groenhout said they try to price those items low because it would still be more than the recycled value.

Children are also involved in an after-school program that stems from the recycling ministry. Once a week, kids work with adult volunteers to take items apart and sort them. When bikes are donated, the children will test them out and help determine if they can be fixed.

“You let the kids be part of what you’re doing, and they just love it,” Groenhout said.

The recycling ministry is also involved with the Robinson Township clean-up day, supports Loutit District Library’s Tech Take-Apart event and has a booth at the annual Earth Day celebration in Grand Haven.

Looking ahead, the ministry plans to grow its online garage sale aspect, which ramps up during the spring and summer months.

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