DuPage sheriff's department heads what some are calling the county's largest recycling event
Hundreds of desks, lamps, dressers and even pencil sharpeners will live to see another day rather than die in a landfill thanks to an old relationship between a Lisle property manager and DuPage County Sheriff Law Enforcement Bureau Chief Bob Toerpe.
The property manager of a 360,000-square-foot abandoned hotel and training and convention center near Lisle agreed several years ago to allow Toerpe, after a liquidation sale, to go through the building and salvage "anything that could help anyone" if the facility ever closed. This week he followed through.
On Wednesday morning, Toerpe, about a dozen inmates in the Sheriff's Work Alternative Program and volunteers from several local organizations did just that.
"All the stuff that is going to end up in the hands of needy people instead of a landfill is just amazing," he said.
Two 53-foot trucks were filled with dressers, tables, lamps, ironing boards and irons and sent to Goodwill's Racine, Wisconsin, headquarters to be distributed among its stores.
Kay McKeen, founder of SCARCE in DuPage, which focuses on preserving natural resources and reusing sustainable materials, also helped connect the sheriff's department with schools and other not-for-profit organizations.
McKeen, who has led SCARCE for nearly 30 years, said Wednesday's event, which will continue for a few more days, may be the county's largest recycling event ever.
"We are double happy because literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of things like marble-topped kitchen counters and dressers aren't going to a landfill and not-for-profits are getting items that will help them serve their clients," McKeen said. "We're also saving tax money as well with some of the desks and furniture also going to some government offices at the DuPage Forest Preserve."
Locally, organizations such as SCARCE, NAMI of DuPage, Aurora's Hesed House and Downers Grove's Sharing Connections furniture bank also filled trucks.
"There was just a supply of items the hotel would need for general upkeep, even toilets still in the box that never even got used because the hotel closed," Toerpe said. "Even the Naperville Humane Society is getting stuff. It's turned into something way, way cooler than I thought it ever would."
Some of the more desirable items were a surprise to Toerpe.
"The funny part of this has been that the most coveted items for teachers are the old-fashioned pencil sharpeners that were stuck on the wall when I was in high school," Toerpe said. "Apparently teachers hate the new electric ones because kids stick the pencils all the way in and they get jammed up.
"So I've been walking the halls of the buildings with a screw gun and a cart taking them all down."
The clean-out effort continues on select days in the coming weeks with more agencies coming to pick through.
"This is a very good partnership," Sheriff Jim Mendrick said. "Environmentally, it is the right thing to do. And it's helping so many of our community members."