Nonprofit GR seeks help to continue its creative recycling work

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids nonprofit that offers recyclable materials for educational and fun projects could close unless it finds new owners and a space to keep thousands of supplies.

“I’m old. I want it to continue,” Betsey Hamm said.

Hamm is the owner and founder of Learn from scratcha non-profit organization that collects discarded materials donated by area businesses and provides them to community groups, schools, and individuals at little or no cost.

They have contributed to art award programs, camp crafts and other projects in the community. They even shipped stuff across the state and country.

The nonprofit survives on donations, bringing in about $1,000 a month, according to Hamm. When she started her business, it was never about the money, it was just a gift to the community.

“It’s great to be able to come here. I like to fill the bag. It’s great value to be able to find all of these things rather than going like a Hobby Lobby or another store and buying them,” said customer Janna Smith.

Hamm is also a former special education teacher. She retired at the age of 48 after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Over the past nearly 25 years, Hamm has helped hundreds of people turn these supplies into a beautiful work of art through his nonprofit organization.

“I love what I do. I wake up and come here and it’s wonderful,” she said.

Hamm’s company is located inside Comprenew on 28th Street, a recycling center that also provides computer support and electronic repairs.

Hamm and his assistant Eric Stacey recently learned from their landlord that they had to move.

A specific timeline has not been specified, but they both want to save everything they have instead of throwing it away.

“We need help,” Hamm said.

There’s a basement full of materials that haven’t even been put on the shelves. They are already moving but have not found another place to go.

“We have three mini-warehouses, we have two semi-trailers. We have a school bus. We used a friends barn. We have storage barns in our yards,” Stacey said.

“It’s even in my car,” Hamm added.

Hamm, 75, suffers from aphasia and scoliosis. Stacey helps out as much as he can but he’s getting old. They both say running the nonprofit is a heavy burden, but it’s worth spending their time and energy until they can get more help.

“We would like this mission to continue as we believe it is a great resource for the community,” Stacey said. “We are looking for someone who will carry on after we are unable to. Someone who has the resources, the manpower and the vision to continue what we do.

Currently, the pair are moving everything from the Grand Rapids store to Lowell, where they live.

They are looking for anyone who can have space for them to operate the business in Grand Rapids and keep all of their equipment in one place.

If you would like to help, contact Stacey at 616.890.1085.

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