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Students get into recycling with furniture firm's help

Students and teachers who won the Stanleytown Elementary School recycling drive give Hooker Furniture employee Billy Lankford (center) an award for his help coordinating the program. Pictured are fourth-grader Malcolm Manns (center), fifth-grader Zachary Gillespie (right), teacher Andi Davis (behind Manns) and paraprofessional Barbara Gravely (far left). The winning class collected almost two tons of recyclables in 12 days.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

By KIM BARTO - Bulletin Staff Writer

Students and teachers at Stanleytown Elementary School recycled nearly two tons of materials in a 12-day recycling drive sponsored by Hooker Furniture.

Classes competed to see who could collect the most mixed paper and plastic for recycling, materials that otherwise would have ended up in the trash.

The winning group was made up of the preschool and multi-age classes, including the hearing-impaired and special-needs students, who brought in a total of 1,839.71 pounds.

They celebrated with a pizza party recently as a reward for collecting almost half of the school's total 3,870.71 pounds of recyclables.

"We had a huge response, more than any of us anticipated," said Elizabeth Hussey, administrative intern at Stanleytown Elementary. "There were parents bringing in trash bags full of recyclable materials because the bags were so big, the kids couldn't fit them on the bus."

The recycling project was organized with Hooker Furniture as part of the company's environmental outreach efforts. The company and its subsidiaries are in the process of earning EFEC certification, short for Enhancing Furniture's Environmental Culture, and one aspect involves promoting recycling at its facilities and in the community.

Hooker Furniture employee and EFEC team member Billy Lankford became known as "the recycling dude" at Stanleytown. Lankford visited the school every day during the recycling drive to talk to classes and collect the 50-gallon containers of recyclables for weighing.

The EFEC group put together a bulletin board in the main hallway of the school to educate people about recycling. Notes also were sent home to parents to encourage them to send in recyclables from home.

Lankford said the children "received it well" and "asked a lot of questions."

"They've all been excited about the whole situation from day one," he said.

During the pizza party, students from the hearing-impaired program presented Lankford with an award to thank him for his help. The students were third-grader Vivian Mata, fourth-grader Malcolm Manns and fifth-grader Zachary Gillespie.

The three listed some of the items they brought in for recycling, including drink bottles, mixed paper, newspaper and plastic cups. They learned to "look for the (recycling) symbol on the bottom of the bottle," Zachary said.

Malcolm said students brought in a lot of catalogs and flattened boxes.

Students said their families changed some of their recycling habits because of the program.

"At home we have a bag we put papers in (for recycling)," Vivian said.

Students also took lessons to heart, such as "don't pollute the water" and "don't throw your trash on the ground," Zachary said.

The winning classes at Stanleytown received lots of encouragement from special education paraprofessional Barbara Gravely, whom paraprofessional Steve Rose called "our Wonder Woman of ecology."

"We all worked together," Gravely said. "I just did most of the worrying," she said, by urging students and teachers to bring in recyclables.

"You'd be surprised - we didn't know things like pill bottles or orange juice containers were recyclable," she said. "The kids would take their milk containers up after breakfast and lunch and put them in the right bins."

EFEC team member Debbie Lawless praised "the enthusiasm of the kids."

"You put a project out there, and they just go with it," Lawless said.