HAMMOND — Piles of donated egg cartons, oatmeal containers and wallpaper, among other items, can get a little messy, Racine Kovach concedes, but it's all stuff that finds a new purpose at the ReUZ Room at the Lake County Solid Waste Management District offices.
“A lot of people say: 'Thankfully there's a place like this,'” said Kovach, the district's environmental education center coordinator and a 2008 graduate of Purdue University, West Lafayette.
The room at 2405 Calumet Ave. offers teachers, vacation Bible school instructors, Scout leaders and others a unique place to gather up reusable items (clean and dry, please) for youngster projects. It is open from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Kovach, 31, of Hessville, has been operating the room for the past six years and while everything is free, she stipulates whatever is taken for the new 3 R's (reduce, reuse recycle) be weighed so the LCSWMD can keep track of what has been carried out by weight.
The 15 to 20 visitors a week have diverted as much as 8 tons of repurposed materials in the course of a year.
“There's no consistency with the numbers,” Kovach notes. “We're at the whim of who is donating supplies, what they bring in and what people are looking for.”
Nonetheless, Kovach's tally shows the room recirculates 5 to 6 tons of material annually on average with as much as 2,000 pounds and as low as 300 to 400 pounds a month since she started keeping records.
“People like to come in and pick through what is an oddball piece,” said Angela Goodson, the district's environmental education and outreach coordinator.
In addition to Lake and Porter County residents, the district welcomes South Chicago patrons, too.