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Recycle Hi-Line: To them, trash is treasure

Havre Daily News/John Kelleher

Lorrie Cofer sorts through bags full of recyclable brought to the Recycle Hi-Line recycling station Saturday during Havre Pride Day cleanup.

To honor volunteerism in north-central Montana during National Volunteer Week, every day this week Havre Daily News will be looking at some volunteers and volunteer-run organizations which help sustain our communities and enrich our lives.

The first article of this week's series about volunteerism on the Hi-Line invites this question: Would you pay for the privilege of collecting your neighbors' trash?

The nonprofit group Recycle Hi-Line held its monthly recycling drive Saturday in conjunction with Havre Pride Day spring cleanup. Several members worked to collect recyclables, including plastic, paper, electronics and metals, at the parking lot at 1st Street and 5th Avenue from 8 a.m. to noon.

The numbers on the amounts of recyclables taken in for the day aren't available yet, but the group's April meeting minutes reported that their regular March recycling drive brought in 2,644 pounds of paper, 862 pounds of cardboard, 88 pounds of aluminum, 118 pounds of tin, 236 pounds of electronic waste and two bales of plastic.

"It is growing by leaps and bounds," said Dona Woods, a retired nurse who has been a Recycle Hi-Line member for a couple years. "People do look forward to the monthly recycle drives."

The group's goal is to reduce the number of recyclable materials being deposited in Hill County's municipal landfill to extend the life of the landfill.

This will save money for Hill, Blaine and Chouteau county residents and help save the local environment, but also it saves resource consumption more globally by collecting the materials which are then reprocessed by manufactures or reused in another ways.

Among other activities the members perform — such as the monthly drives and public education about recycling — they work to coordinate recycling efforts between businesses and organizations that create recyclable waste and the businesses that will accept and recycle the materials. This includes approaching businesses and organizations about recycling and figuring out the most efficient and user-friendly way — for both the business and the recycling entity — of going about the collection.

They develop their own PowerPoint presentations and handout materials for educational talks at schools, businesses and meetings of interested organizations, write grants, maintain a website, hand out free reusable grocery bags at stores, research recycling processes and meticulously track recycling numbers — along with physically sorting the recyclables they accept at the drives.

And for the privilege of doing all this, and more, they pay membership dues or they work off their membership by donating time at the rate of $1 per hour.

Candi Zion, the chair of Recycle Hi-Line, was an original founder of the group in 2008, when the county was working to start a new landfill after the one being used at the time filled 30 years before it was scheduled to.

"It was clear there was a need for expanded recycling opportunities on the Hi-Line to extend the life of the landfill by keeping recyclables out of the landfill," she said.

Because she and the other members of Recycle Hi-Line have felt compelled to make a difference here, everyone in the community benefits.

Member and Director of Student Activities at Montana State University-Northern Denise Brewer feels "that people truly do appreciate the time you donate," adding that part of what keeps her motivated is "the sense of giving back to the community."

But there are worries among the volunteers, which were echoed by several people interviewed for this series of articles.

"I'm often concerned that I see the same people volunteering for multiple organizations and events, and I know a lot of people who never volunteer," said Christy Keto, who works for Triangle Communications and Hill County Electric. "We really don't want those regulars to get burned out and be forced to quit altogether."

And this concern is related to the other primary worry that not enough young people are learning the importance of volunteerism to replace current volunteers in the future.

Recycle Hi-Line, though, is helping some to fix that problem as well, through their partnership with YouthBuild of North Central Montana, a construction education program which, among other things the program has done with area nonprofits, has partnered with Recycle Hi-Line to build recycle bins and other necessities.

"The youth of our program need a place to volunteer," YouthBuild Director Bob Anderson said.

"I want the participants of our program to make a voluntary commitment and follow through."

Keto, who has been a Recycle Hi-Line member for about a year, feels that the recycling effort is a worthwhile cause spearheaded by a group of people who inspire commitment to do good.

"I was so impressed with the work that the group was doing, as well as their determination. I wanted to be a part of it hoping I could help them make a difference," she said, adding, "I strongly believe that most people want to do the right thing and be responsible citizens, and in this case, most simply don't know what all they can do."

She has advice for those who are hesitant about volunteering.

"It doesn't have to take a lot (of time)," she said. "You are the right kind of person — you don't need any special skills to volunteer. Find something you believe in and ask to be involved. I can guarantee you'll get as much out of it as it gets out of you."

Recycle Hi-Line isn't the only volunteer organization that works in north-central communities in a civic-support capacity. Some are listed here:

  • Both the Great Northern Fair and Hill County parks have volunteer boards appointed by the county commission.
  • Public libraries in Havre, Chinook and Harlem have volunteer boards.
  • Beaver Creek Park and Havre-Hill County Library have volunteer-run foundations which help bring in financial support along with labor, materials and more for projects.
  • Rural fire departments are all volunteer-run, from the dispatchers to the fire crews. They take responsibility for their own fundraising, vehicle maintenance, safety gear purchases, fire hall construction or purchase and training in order to be prepared to keep their rural communities safe.
  • North-central county weed and mosquito districts along with Blaine County's five irrigation districts all have volunteer boards to govern their operation.
  • Hunter education instructors become certified and teach youth and adults hunter safety that is required by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks before anyone born after Jan. 1, 1985, can get a hunting or bowhunting license.
  • Several clubs and organizations work to improve camping, fishing and hunting opportunities in the area.
  • The Havre City-County Airport, the Edgar G Obie Airport in Chinook have volunteer boards to oversee operations, including maintenance, funding and federal regulation compliance.
  • Many clubs, organizations, businesses and individuals participate in the Adopt-A-Highway litter control program, committing twice-yearly to picking up blown-in or discarded trash along roadways.
  • The Unified Disposal Board has volunteer members which govern the tri-county landfill for Hill, Blaine and northern Chouteau counties.

"There are a tremendous number of people in this community who give freely of their time and expertise to help make the community better." — Mark Peterson, Hill County commissioner


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