Orchard View shoe drive gains footing

Posted: November 15, 2012

The Winchester Star

Claire Sumner, Orchard View Elementary Student Council Association vice president, and treasurer William Freilich, both 10, bag shoes that the school has been collecting. The school project is going on in conjunction with National Recycling Day. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Drew Fergus (from left), 10, Orchard View Student Council Association president; Maggie Heishman, 11, SCA reporter/historian; and Tori Stanford, 11, secretary, sort bags of shoes the school has collected. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — If you’ve visited Orchard View Elementary School in the past two weeks, you may have left with the distinct impression that something was afoot.

Students at the Frederick County school are collecting pairs of shoes as part of a recycling effort. The footwear will wind up being given to people in Third World countries or resold domestically.

The collection drive, sponsored by the Student Council Association (SCA), was timed to encompass National Recycling Day, which is today.

Orchard View students collected shoes three years ago, but focused on plastic bottles and bags over the past two years. Drew Fergus, the SCA’s president, said council representatives voted to go with shoes again this year.

“Most kids have a lot of extra shoes, and it’s fun to collect [them],” said Drew, the 10-year-old son of Allan and Andrea Fergus.

Connie Van Sickler, a counselor at the school and the co-sponsor of the SCA, said the students set a goal to collect 1,200 pairs. If they’re successful, it would greatly exceed the 500 pairs collected during the last shoe drive.

“I think we have a very community-focused group of kids here,” she said. “They want to help. They want to do something, and this makes it fun for them.”

The previous drive also was popular with parents, Van Sickler said, because it provided a chance for them to get rid of extra shoes.

In addition to traditional ones for adults and children, Drew said cleats and Army boots have been donated.

The drive was supposed to last only two weeks, and Van Sickler said notice about and emphasis on it were hampered by the school’s closure for two days two weeks ago when Hurricane Sandy hit the Mid-Atlantic Region. Students also didn’t attend schools in Frederick County on Nov. 5 and 6, which were teacher workdays.

As of Wednesday morning, Van Sickler said, about 300 pairs had been collected. The effort might be extended a few days because of the school closures.

When the drive ends, the shoes will be picked up by Gloria Puffinburger, the county’s solid waste coordinator. She said a vendor rounds them up along with various textiles collected each month, and the county receives a rebate based on their weight.

As part of its recycling efforts, Puffinburger said, the county is seeking slightly used stuffed animals that can be used as toys or teaching tools.

National Recycling Day comes about a month after the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released its annual recycling report.

Data indicates that the Northern Shenandoah Valley region — which includes Winchester and Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah and Page counties — recycled 39.1 percent of its solid waste in 2011, which ranked 22nd of the 71 regions in Virginia. More than 219 tons of solid waste was generated in the region, with 85,652 tons diverted.

The rate was down from the 39.7 percent diversion rate of 2010 but higher than 2009’s 36.5 percent.

Statewide, the recycling rate rose 3 percentage points to 43.5 percent in 2011.

Jill Keihn, natural resources program director for the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, said she’s heard that lower recycling rates have tended to be the trend nationwide because of the economic downturn.

“When times are hard financially,” she said, “people don’t recycle as quickly or as much. They buy less and use it longer.”

The money paid for recyclables also is down, she said, so some companies might be holding onto their materials until prices rise.

The regional commission is involved in several initiatives designed to stimulate recycling activity, including attempting to develop an application for smart phones that tells people where the nearest recycling center is.

Puffinburger reported that Frederick County recycled a record 51 percent of its solid waste in 2011.

Recycling also rose in Winchester, climbing to 33 percent in 2011 from 31 percent in 2010.

Michael Neese, the city’s recycling coordinator, said the amount of waste picked up by city crews in 2011 declined by 200 tons while the recycling of bottles, cans and plastic increased by 100 tons.

He attributed the recycling rise to the city’s ability to accept a broader array of plastics than it had. It collects all types of plastic except Styrofoam.

The city’s rate might have been a bit higher if the DEQ had allowed its firewood project to count.

Neese said that if the city had mulched the trees it cut down along Valley Avenue for a sidewalk project, it would have been considered recycling. But cutting it into firewood that was distributed through the Winchester Department of Social Services did not count.

“At least,” he said, “we did something good and productive with them.”

Alison Teetor, Clarke County’s natural resource planner, said she was not aware of the locality’s recycling rate because it’s part of a regional landfill with Frederick County.

However, she said recycling is being encouraged in Clarke. One method has been the implementation of the “Critters Don’t Litter” program in elementary schools.

“If we can encourage kids to recycle,” she said, “we hope they’ll go home and tell their parents.”

americarecyclesday.org

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com