At First Christian Reformed Church in Grand Haven, Mich., one person’s trash is another person’s opportunity to be of service. Going into its 10th year of operation, the church’s recycling ministry has grown from a church-focused fundraising project to a community resource operating five days a week, accessible 24/7.
“This started as a fundraising project simply so we could fix our boiler,” said Recycling Team coordinator Joan Groenhout. “That was $25,000. Once we raised that money, we thought ‘okay, we’ll be done,’ but the heart of the congregation and also the heart of the community had already taken hold of the ministry and wanted it to keep going.”
Groenhout said the ministry of 43 volunteers has grown in its first decade, adding paper drop-off bins in October 2016 to the already bustling work of reclaiming scrap metal and electronics via two free pick-up times per week and 24/7 drop off at the church’s recycling home base (the garage of a home the church owns adjacent to its property). The material from an estimated 1,500 households and 100-plus businesses over the years is taken weekly by a delivery crew to Black River Recycling in Holland, Mich.
Some of the money received for the reclaimed materials, administered by the church’s deacons, is used to pay for the ministry’s expenses, such as maintenance of the vehicles and trailers. The remaining money is distributed in three other ways: to a local charity selected by the church; contributing to the church’s youth mission trips; and purchasing Bibles, devotionals, and kids’ Christian-based DVDs to distribute during residential recycling pick-ups and at the church’s four annual community welcoming events.
“The most common comment we’ve received over and over is ‘It’s nice to see a church doing something good for a change,’” Groenhout said. “That really hit home with us . . . knowing that we’re making a difference for the name of Jesus, the name of churches—that matters. Though our church has a heart for environmental stewardship, we discovered we have an even bigger heart for reaching out to our neighbors to share God’s love and grace. And we are so grateful that our Recycle Ministry allows us to do both!”
The church estimates having recycled over 1.7 million pounds (about 771,000 kilograms) of metal and electronics since March 2008. In the four months since adding paper-collecting bins in the church parking lot (emptied every three weeks by a paper recycling company), the church estimates that 53,000 pounds (24,000 kilograms) of paper has been recycled. Returnable bottle redemption and local business receipt collection round out the recycling and fundraising aspects of First Church’s Recycling Ministry Team.