RRR Hero of December: Sherry Spitz

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Iowa native Sherry Spitz grew up on a working farm. Hard work, stretching a dollar and appreciating the beauty in items handed down for generations were all elements of her upbringing that Sherry brought with her when she migrated to Gilbert more than 20 years ago. Sherry’s previous retail experience led to her success in selling antiques in several Valley antique stores before she and her husband finally opened their own eclectic shop in downtown Gilbert, Flashback Antiques.

Sherry’s passion is in finding new ways to use old items. Items that might easily have been discarded as “trash” have found a new, aesthetically pleasing and purposeful life under Sherry’s discerning and artful eye. Sherry’s store is often a prop resource for the Hale Theater and a mecca for Pinterest enthusiasts who appreciate Sherry’s knack to see beyond the original use for an item. Customers frequent her shop for unusual pieces that they can repurpose, and often post their achievements to the store’s Facebook page.

Sherry’s long-standing Gilbert community roots have afforded her excellent networking resources. Contractors bring Sherry items they would have otherwise landfilled, and if Sherry cannot turn their trash into a treasure, or she has more than she needs of any one item, she and her husband make sure that some other charitable organization receives any merchandise that is usable. Sherry doesn’t purchase bags to give her customers when they purchase items. Instead, she reuses sturdy, “pretty” bags that she has received from other merchants.

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Sherry’s contribution to reducing the need to purchase new items and reusing what is already there in new and creative ways makes her Gilbert’s Reduce Reuse and Recycle Hero for December. If you know someone who you feel should be recognized as an Reduce Reuse and Recycle Hero, please e-mail us at recycle@gilbertaz.gov or give us a call directly at 480-503-6459.

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RRR Hero of October: Elaine Birks-Mitchell

Did you know that 95% of textiles can be recycled, yet 85% of them end up in landfills? Gilbert resident Elaine Birks-Mitchell did. Elaine was also aware of the need by multiple organizations for a singularly elusive garment that was oddly enough not often collected as part of clothing drives – bras. At the same time there are bras tucked away in dresser drawers in almost every home that aren’t being used because they just don’t fit right. On average 8 out of 10 women buy the wrong size bra, which then remains unworn and as we are now aware, not donated!

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You cannot return undergarments, but you can recycle them! So, in 2008 Elaine founded the Bra Recyclers, a Gilbert-based textile recycling company that specializes in the collection and distribution of bras to over 70 organizations worldwide including women in local Valley shelters and other transitional programs. Elaine and her team of Bra Ambassadors started a “Bra-volution” accepting donations of new or gently used bras and getting them to the women and girls that need them the most. “It’s about believing you can make a difference by recycling,” said Elaine Birks-Mitchell. It’s simple; drop off or mail your bra donations to:

3317 S. Higley Road
STE. 114-441
Gilbert, AZ 85297
http://www.brarecycling.com

Thank you Elaine, you are making a difference! For Elaine’s innovative thinking and passion to help others makes her Gilbert’s Reduce Reuse Recycle hero for the month of October. If you know someone who you feel should be recognized for as an RRR Hero, please e-mail us at recycle@gilbertaz.gov or give us a call directly at 480-503-6459.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Hero of September: Cheri Montgomery

This month’s RRR hero has a real eye for turning something old and used into something new and beautiful.  Meet artist Cheri Montgomery and her jewelry business, Timeless Buttons!

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Originally from Oregon, Cheri has lived in the Town of Gilbert for the past 16 years.   Having always had a love of jewelry, Cheri was inspired three years ago to begin making rings from recycled vintage buttons. Collecting buttons from around the world, Cheri learns each button’s history and loves to share the history of each item with her customers.   Her collection of buttons dates to as far back as the 1700s, and includes buttons from military uniforms, service groups such as the Boy Scouts, vintage designer buttons from Chanel, as well as glass, enamel, stone, and other materials from countries like the Czech Republic and France.

Along with buttons, Cheri also makes rings from vintage brooches and single earrings that have lost their mates. She notes that while brooches are out of style and single earrings go unworn, she can breathe new life into them with a bit of creativity!

Cheri says her rings help keep history alive. She tells stories of people that have brought her tins full of vintage buttons that they have kept over the years but had no use for. She has also worked with customers that have brought her buttons that were on a grandparent’s old uniform or dress, and could no longer be used but had great sentimental value.  In this way, the family has new items they can wear regularly that keep their loved one’s memory alive.

You can find Cheri and her beautiful rings at the Gilbert Art Walk the first and third Saturdays of the month beginning this season on October 5th. Along with vintage buttons, the Art Walk is near and dear to Cheri’s heart.  She began participating three years ago and last year took over ownership and management of the event. She continues to work hard to connect small business artisans and the Gilbert community through the Art Walk, and loves that she has found such a niche for her and the other artists’ work here in Gilbert.   Additionally, you can connect with Cheri through her website http://www.timelessbuttons.net/ or the Art Walk website http://www.gilbertartwalk.com/index.html.

Cheri’s passion for the personal histories in her buttons and her ability to create beautiful treasures from these old and no longer used items are what make her Gilbert’s Reduce Reuse and Recycle hero for the month of September.

If you know someone who you feel should be recognized for as an RRR Hero, please e-mail us at recycle@gilbertaz.gov or give us a call directly at 480-503-6459.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Heroes of August: Christina Umbarger, Camellia McKenzie, and Cindy Schlimmer

This month we recognize school cafeteria managers Christina Umbarger, Camellia McKenzie, and Cindy Schlimmer, who took the initiative to help start recycling programs in their schools. Coordinating a recycling program in any school can have hurdles, especially when dealing with hundreds of students in a busy environment. That is why with the help of our RRR Hero of April, Cori Anders, the Town of Gilbert Environmental Services Outreach team approached cafeteria managers with a proposition: Get your kitchens recycling. Not only is it sustainable, it sets a positive example for our youth and can potentially save the school money. After the meeting, these three cafeteria managers decided to take the plunge and make a positive change in their community by committing to start recycling programs in their school kitchens.

With no formalized pre-existing program to work from, the door is wide open for these managers to make big changes in their schools. They do not have a background in sustainability but they all have a passion for the environment. School kitchens go through packaging and materials very quickly throughout the day. These elementary schools have 600-900 students and serve between 300 and 600 lunches a day. By taking the lead on becoming a sustainable kitchen, Umbarger, McKenzie, and Schlimmer are saving hundreds of pounds of trash from being put into landfills. By starting to recycle in the kitchens they are also motivating students, teachers, and staff to recycle in their classrooms and in the offices. The cafeteria sees the most consumption and disposal of any part of the school and by working here they are truly getting at the heart of the problem.

Umbarger, McKenzie, and Schlimmer prove that you do not have to pursue a career in science to make a positive environmental difference. They have found a way to include sustainability into their everyday lives and jobs, which is a lesson that everyone can find value in. It was evident during our visits that the students who come to the cafeteria every day look up to and respect these managers. They are not only helping reduce trash and conserve resources, but they are also helping our community’s children become better stewards of our environment. That is why Christina Umbarger, Camellia McKenzie, and Cindy Schlimmer are the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Heroes for the Month of August!

If you would like to help with recycling efforts at these or any of our Gilbert Public Schools, please e-mail us at recycle@gilbertaz.gov or give us a call directly at 480-503-6459.

If you know someone who you feel should be recognized as an RRR hero, please email us at recycle@gilbertaz.gov.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Hero of July: Steve Burke

Steve Burke, a Town of Gilbert resident for over 20 years, is a textbook example that you don’t have to be an artist to make art.  Retired for 34 years from the U.S. Marshals service, Burke was looking for a hobby and happened to see an old Schwinn bicycle thrown out by his neighbor.  Though Burke has never attended an art class nor worked with a wrench, he took the bike to his garage and tinkered with it until he configured a masterpiece.

Burke now focuses on refurbishing/up-scaling Japanese or American-made bicycles because of their heritage. He knows they will last and they are frequently made of American steel.  After garnering much interest from the public in his home (garage) business operation, Steve opened a shop in Gilbert.  Unfortunately, Steve’s shop relied heavily on foot traffic from a local sports bar and when that business closed, so did much of Steve’s walk-in customer traffic.

Neighborhood support of Burke’s dream and talent to make usable art from discarded objects led him to Glen Blackmore, owner and operator of the Eclectic Monkey Emporium in Mesa.  Blackmore, like Burke, has a passion for converting discarded industrial items into works of art. It became a match made in heaven.  Together, Burke and Blackmore challenge each other to complete projects, shop yard sales to salvage unique pieces, and gradually restore the Eclectic Monkey’s unique building.

Starting in August, Burke and Blackmore will start hosting Technology, Entertainment and Design “TED” talks at the store twice a month on Fridays and Saturdays with a speak-easy garage theme. There will be drinks, food provided by local vendors and, of course, Burke and Blackmore will showcase their completed up-scaled art pieces.   During the last week of the each month, the up-scaled art will be offered for purchase. Then, the process will start again with both men creating new innovative one-of-a-kind art pieces to be sold the following month.

Burke is excited to be working with Blackmore and together they envision a great future for the Eclectic Monkey Emporium.  Though Burke continues to volunteer his time in support of local Gilbert sustainability efforts, he wishes to make a larger impact in his own community by someday opening another eco-friendly up-scaled art shop within town lines.  With his artistic talent and a healthy knowledge of “going green,” (thanks to attending a Chandler Gilbert Community College class on sustainability,) Burke is sure to realize his dream.   Because of his passion for sustainability, his enthusiasm for community involvement and his dedication to working exclusively with recycled material, Steve Burke is our Gilbert Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Hero for the month of July!

If you know someone who you feel should be recognized for as an RRR Hero, please e-mail us atrecycle@gilbertaz.gov or give us a call directly at 480-503-6459.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Hero of June: Mark Hunsaker

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This month we would like to celebrate one of our own!  Mark Hunsaker, a Vietnam War veteran and Arizona native, has been a Town employee for the past 17 years.  Mark and his wife, who he met while they were employed by GM as high-speed run test car drivers, are parents to six children, 16 grandchildren and foster parents to many others.

In keeping with Mark’s generous nature, he volunteered himself and several of his children to participate in the planting of “Sustainability Gardens” for residents of the Gila/Pima Indian Reservation.    Now three years later, Mark (with occasional assistance from his children and grandchildren) continues to donate up to 30 hours each week, assisting Gila/Pima Indian Reservation residents to plant and maintain sustainability gardens.

Seeds that are donated from local nurseries are planted and nurtured to maturity in five greenhouses located on the reservation.  Mark works with local Gila/Pima resident Sonny Backwater and others who tend to the tomato, pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, melon and bean seedlings until they are hearty enough to be transplanted to the gardens.  From there, Mark may be called upon to do anything from building fencing and preparing the land for planting, to installing complete irrigation drip systems. Mark works closely with the residents, teaching them along the way so that they are not only able to maintain their new gardens but also able to assist neighbors in building their own.

Mark is a real hero to his fellow employees. He is our go-to guy, the man to get things done. One of his duties at the Town of Gilbert is to educate residents on how to compost.  After educating them, he and other Environmental Services staff deliver compost bins free of charge to residents for home use. Mark is a true steward of our environment and we are proud to claim him as not only an active member of the Gilbert community but also as an employee of the Town.  For Mark’s passion for environmental sustainability and commitment to help others, we salute him as our June RRR Hero of the Month.

If you would like information on how to participate in the “Sustainability Garden” project, you may contact Mark at  480-229-0921.

If you know someone who you feel should be recognized for as an RRR Hero, please e-mail us atrecycle@gilbertaz.gov or give us a call directly at 480-503-6459.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Hero of May: Jerry Gift

On the surface, Greenfield Elementary may look like all of the other elementary schools in Gilbert. Tour the school and you begin to realize you are in a special place, due largely to the efforts of longtime Building Manager, Jerry Gift.

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Much of Mr. Gift’s 23-year tenure with the school has been spent championing environmentally conscious change. Several years ago, Mr. Gift made note of the often only partially filled trash dumpsters on the school site. The dumpster volume was taken up largely by non-recyclable Styrofoam used during the lunch service, making thrice weekly pickup service necessary.

Mr. Gift presented a solution to the school principal – a machine to melt down the Styrofoam. Not only would the Styrofoam be compacted to take up less space, the 4x4x2 foot condensed Styrofoam could be sold and used as an alternative fuel source or  be made into other products like planters. Gilbert Public Schools’ services were sold on the idea and purchased a Thermo Compactor for Greenfield Elementary.

Mr. Gift encourages the elementary students to serve as volunteers in assisting the school’s recycling efforts.

“I like to keep it simple with the students by having them do the same jobs everyday thus making them feel more confident in their role as recyclers,” says Gift.

The schools combined efforts to recycle Styrofoam, as well as milk cartons and aluminum cans, have cut their weekly trash pickup service from 3 times a week to 2 times a week. This minor change not only reduced costs but also the carbon footprint required to service the receptacles more often.  A win-win all around!

Mr. Gift’s reduce, reuse, recycle efforts did not stop there.  He suggested removing one overhead bulb from every fixture in the facility that would normally use two, resulting in a marked cost savings for the school.  Mr. Gift is a modest man who does not solicit recognition for his actions.  He is quick to point out that he works with a “very supportive staff” and credits the wonderful students who he inspires to go the extra mile and do their part to contribute each day to the school’s recycling efforts.

Mr. Gift’s forward thinking and willingness to think globally and act locally is what makes him Gilbert’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Hero of the month.  We salute you, Mr. Gift!

Do you know someone who could be Gilbert’s next RRR Hero of the Month? Nominate them today by emailing recycle@gilbertaz.gov.