Mind & Spirit

Freeport Recycle Store: Helping People Find Their (Re)Purpose

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More than an antique shop or a thrift shop, everything about Freeport Recycle Store is charitable. Learn how you can become part of the “recycling” process.

Barb Green and Sandie Tresemer volunteer at Freeport Recycle Store, a nonprofit that prevents quality household items from being thrown out.

Barb Green and Sandie Tresemer volunteer at Freeport Recycle Store, a nonprofit that prevents quality household items from being thrown out.

Imagine a beautiful couch just sitting in a junkyard. Or a kitchen table that’s still perfectly functional.
The thought was upsetting to Barb Green, a retiree who lives in Freeport.

“There was a group of us who wanted to give back to the community and keep really nice stuff from going to the landfill,” Green says. “So, we all got together to start a nonprofit that ‘recycles’ nice things.”

The group opened Freeport Recycle Store on April 1, 2017, at 1287 W. Galena Ave., Freeport. The nonprofit is 100 percent volunteer-driven, mostly by retirees. People can donate or purchase furniture, antiques, jewelry, dishes, pottery, lawn furniture, cupboards and other abstract pieces.

It’s a labor of love and generosity.

“We’re so grateful to Joan Welt, who manages the mall we’re located in and got us going with free rent,” Green says. “We’re also so grateful for the donors who got us started.”

When the store first opened, there wasn’t much to find – maybe a table, maybe a couple of appliances. Now, the store’s wide inventory changes on a daily basis.

Regulars often stop by to see what’s new, Green says. Items by the front window typically sell the quickest. There’s even a waiting list for people who want a particular item like a nice cupboard or kitchen table.

Green also has an eye for design and enjoys arranging shelves, figurines and knickknacks in a way she finds appealing.

“Normally I’ll do a whole wall, and every time I just get done with it, someone will come in and buy everything,” she chuckles. “It makes sense – the thinking has already been done for them.”

There’s also a “kids’ room,” where children can play while their parents shop. If the kids behave, they get to take home one item in the room for free. It’s typically a stuffed animal, book or other toy, Green says.

The store offers to pick up donations for free and deliver purchases for $20 in Freeport and $30 anywhere else across the region. According to Green, most donors are “older, established” people who want to get rid of their belongings.

“They’re cleaning out their homes, or maybe they’re downsizing, and they want to see their stuff reused instead of thrown away,” Green says. “Actually, many of our buyers and donors are some of the same people. It’s a nice community place, and we all work together to keep nice stuff away from the landfill.”

But the nonprofit’s mission runs deeper than just saving furniture. Every month, Freeport Recycle Store makes a $500 donation to another local charity. Past donations have gone to Mother Hubbard’s Kiddie Cupboard, an organization that helps moms with diapers, clothing and other items; Voices of Stephenson County, an organization that services victims and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse; the Salvation Army; Freeport’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); and many more.

A future donation will go to Winneshiek Players, a local organization devoted to the development and enjoyment of the theater arts.

“We don’t have any special rules for who gets the donation,” Green says. “We just ask that when we give you the check, you come in and take a picture with us. That way, when people ask, ‘What did you do with the money from the couch I donated?,’ I can show them our scrapbook of all the people we’ve donated money to. Again, we’re all volunteers, so as long as our rent is paid and we’ve got gas in our truck, our money is completely free to give away.”

The volunteers also try to help out those in need. Sometimes, a person who has fallen on hard times will come into the store, maybe after a fire or divorce, in search of furniture to start a new home. Green will offer some items for free to help the person out.

“We had a family who moved here after a hurricane, and when they told us their situation, we just had to help,” she says. “The dad had a job here, but they had two little girls in school and they just didn’t have anything in their house. We told them to take what they wanted. The two little girls even wrote us letters saying thank you.”

There’s also frequent coordination with the VA to help out local veterans.

“We’re just donating our time and energy, and then the people in the community donate the goods,” Green says. “We also contribute to the community by paying taxes and by filling up a vacant spot. It’s amazing to see how we started with nothing, and now we’re able to give so much.”

As for Green, “working” at Freeport Recycle Store is a fulfilling way to spend time. Her husband is also a volunteer. He helps load and unload the truck when goods are purchased or donated.

“All of the volunteers used to work in Freeport – I used to manage senior housing and my husband helped build the ethanol plant out here,” Green says. “So, we had good jobs, and Freeport is our home. When my husband and I both retired, we had a to-do list for the first year, and we also did some traveling, but after that, we didn’t know what to do. I think this is just a great way to give back.”

“Plus, it keeps me healthy,” Green continues. “It keeps my mind going. We’re not just sitting around – we have a purpose. It’s like we’ve also repurposed or recycled ourselves.”

The only customer complaint Green ever hears is that the store isn’t open often enough. The schedule is unusual, with hours Mon. 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Wed. and Fri. 1-5 p.m., and Sat. 9-11 a.m.
The hours are based on the volunteers’ availability.

“We really could use more volunteers,” Green says. “They wouldn’t need to work every day – we all have a life. But, if we get more volunteers, we could be open more often.”

Items at Freeport Recycle Store

Appliances (gently used)
Cabinets (kitchen and bathroom)
Ceiling fans
Dishes, glasses, knickknacks, etc.
Doors (interior and exterior)
Electrical
Flooring materials (ceramic, vinyl, wood)
Furniture
Hardware (for doors, cabinets, etc.)
Insulation
Lighting products
Lumber
Pipe/PVC/Metal
Plumbing supplies
Toilets (high rise, gently used)

If you have something on this list and want to donate it, or if you’re in need of items, call (815) 233-5650.

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