By NIKKI YOUNK
CRYSTAL FALLS - Recycling doesn't have to be limited to plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and newspapers.
Nikki Younk/Daily News Photo
The St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Crystal Falls has a growing number of patrons who recycle donated items into new products. Pictured above, from left, are Betsy Hagberg, who uses fabric and blankets to make quilts; Judy Fell of St. Vincent de Paul, who is displaying hats made by Jack Stachowicz; Vance Jones, who makes sleds from old cross country skis; and Judy Maki, who utilizes the yarn from old sweaters to create afghans.
With a little imagination, pretty much any item can be creatively reused.
The St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Crystal Falls fosters an environment in which patrons are encouraged to do just that.
In fact, the store has several regular patrons who actively seek out old, unwanted donations that they can transform into functional products.
Although each person works separately, they are all alike in that they give their finished creations away to those in need.
Betsy Hagberg of Crystal Falls has been utilizing old fabrics and blankets to make quilts for the needy for about 14 years.
Working with a group of six to eight volunteers at the United Lutheran Church in Crystal Falls, Hagberg helps to produce about 200 quilts each year. Quilts are then shipped to victims of disasters or residents of third world countries through Lutheran World Relief.
"I get all of my materials from St. Vincent de Paul or the church," said Hagberg. "I keep pretty busy."
Another recycling aficionado is Judy Maki of Crystal Falls. She uses the yarn from old sweaters to craft afghans for the Mission Bible Training Center in Gaastra and the Iron County Medical Care Facility in Crystal Falls.
"Retrieving yarn from sweaters gives me the opportunity to find unique yarns that I couldn't buy anywhere else," Maki explained.
In addition to making afghans, Maki also recycles deteriorated or out-of-style fur coats into teddy bears. It's a hobby she has been involved in for more than 40 years now.
"My kids inspired me to do it," she said. "They loved teddy bears."
Vance Jones of Randville started his hobby of making sleds from old cross country skis more recently.
In just a year and a half, Jones has assembled 14 sleds. He already has requests for another 20.
Jones starts his process by collecting old skis. He then harvests wood from trees on his family members' property, and planes and cuts the lumber himself. Finally, he attaches the skis to the finished wooden boards with brackets and bolts.
"I started making them for families at my church," said Jones. "I've donated them to people in the Felch area, Crystal Falls, and Iron River."
Jones has also given back to St. Vincent de Paul by allowing the store to hold a drawing for one of his sleds. Money raised went toward purchasing food baskets.
"It's just part of giving back to the community," Jones added.
Judy Fell of the Crystal Falls St. Vincent de Paul store noted that she has one more patron who recycles materials for a good cause. Jack Stachowicz of Crystal Falls makes winter hats from old yarn and allows the store to sell each hat for 50 cents.
"They go like hotcakes," said Fell.
Hagberg, Maki, and Jones all credited St. Vincent de Paul staff and volunteers for helping in their efforts.
"They go the extra mile to interact with customers and create a sense of community," said Maki. "They know what we need for our projects."
The Crystal Falls St. Vincent de Paul store is located at 136 Superior Avenue. Its hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
For more information, call the store at (906) 875-4251.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.