Sunday, January 25, 2009

When I grow up I want to be more like Dr. Ted Bryant!

Ted has become a good friend and I have had the privilege of getting to know him even better on our recent trip to India (28 hour plane rides have a tendency to do that!). I am so excited that we get to partner with Ted and greenLockers not only through our own 501(c)3 here and in India.

Today, the Tribune ran an article on greenLockers and Ted. Here it is;

Charity wants old recycling bins
Nonprofit putting bins, excess school supplies to use.

Tribune Staff Writer

St. Joseph County residents stuck with old recycling bins can get rid of them and help needy children at the same time.

Ted Bryant wants as many of the 18-gallon bins as he can collect for greenlockers, a nonprofit he founded that distributes school supplies and used clothing to children here and abroad. He is asking people to drop off the bins at one of five local Martin's Super Markets on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The group will have tables and banners set up outside the stores.

So far, Bryant has partnered with student groups such as Five Star, National Honor Society and student council, who have organized the school supplies collection by placing cardboard boxes or trash cans in hallways on the final chaotic day of classes. Traditionally, students have just tossed the contents from their lockers into trash cans.

But Bryant says those lockers contain plenty of excess school supplies and clothing.

Bryant, a 30-year-old Bethel College psychology professor, said he conceived the idea in 2006 on a Granger Community Church high school youth group trip to orphanages in Mexico. Those making the trip were required to fill 40 suitcases with school supplies.

He thought back to his own school days, and how much stuff kids threw away on the last day of school.

"When I gave a half-used crayon to a kid in Mexico and saw genuine excitement like it was Christmas morning, I knew there was something here," Bryant said. "One of the things I've found around the world is that education is a doorway out of the grip of poverty, and education cannot happen, from what I've seen, for a lot of these kids, without basic school supplies."

He started the program as "Trash to Treasure" in 2006 at Clay High School and Discovery Middle School. In 2007 he dropped Clay and decided to focus only on middle schools, taking it to Discovery, Schmucker and Grissom in the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp., and Pierre Moran and Mary Beck middle schools in Elkhart.

Without any kind of advertising or promotion, he collected 7,000 pounds of materials from those five schools.

The items ended up in the hands of children in South Bend, Chicago and Mexico.

"People right here need this stuff," he said. "I'm not trying to send it all to Mexico, especially during these hard times."

Good sorting is important, he said, noting that the condition of the materials might help determine their destination. Children locally are more choosy about the condition of their school supplies than are children in poorer countries, he said.

Last year a family matter took Bryant out of town, causing a hiatus in the program.

Upon his recent return from a mission trip to India, he felt a new sense of purpose to aggressively grow it.

He legally incorporated as "greenlockers" and earlier this month launched a new Web site at

He plans to collect from at least a dozen area schools this spring.

Bryant said it has become tougher to gather cardboard boxes from supermarkets because so many stores quickly break down and compact them for recycling. They also don't hold up well when kids toss pop cans into them, despite being urged not to do so.

When Bryant saw a recent Tribune article reporting that the county solid waste management district would not be picking up bins that have become obsolete under the new curbside recycling program, an idea struck him.

"These recycling bins are the perfect size, and they could basically survive nuclear warfare," he said. "It takes a lot of containers because kids do not want to walk more than four feet from their lockers."

Like any new organization, greenlockers hit some bumps at the beginning. For instance, Clay High custodians initially grew angry when they saw the mess left in the hallways, but they cooled down once they saw Bryant cleaning up the debris himself, Bryant recalled.

These days, he isn't having much trouble inspiring enthusiasm for the cause.

He finds donations to rent trucks and buy gasoline needed to haul the materials. Granger Community Church volunteers do the sorting.

Five Star is letting him store the bins at its Elkhart warehouse.

Bethel College business students have come on board, hoping to do good while acquiring real-world experience in logistics and marketing.

Bryant would like to one day go national, but doesn't want to grow too quickly.

He has heard interest from as far away as California, he said.

"A lot of people know things need to be done," he said, "but they don't think they can do anything about it. They can."

Staff writer Jeff Parrott:
(574) 235-6320

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