Boys & Girls Club Can't can

After 22 years, the Boys & Girls

Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula's aluminum can recycling in Sequim and Port Angeles is ending.

The last day to drop off cans at one of the 21 box locations is March 31. By April 1, all boxes will be removed, along with the collection trailer behind the organization's Carroll C. Kendall unit at 400 W. Fir St, Sequim.

The recycling program was started by the Sequim Elks to benefit Seattle's Children's Orthopedic Hospital.

Jack and Peg Rinker took it over shortly after the Boys & Girls Club in Sequim was established, with Jack offering to take it over only if profits stayed local and went to the club.

"It was started so long ago, it was when I had red hair," Jack Rinker said.

His son Brad helped by donating a crusher and picking up the cans twice a month.

Rinker said he often felt like quitting because of the grueling labor. But when he was reminded that the money he brought in bought needed things - including a new bus and gym equip-ment for the clubs - he kept going.

Money from the program has gone into the general fund for the Sequim and Port Angeles clubs.

The recycling program has seen a decline in can donations and a drop in the price of aluminum in the past year.

In 2006, volunteers cashed in 15,265 pounds of cans for $5,424.

In 2008, they collected 14,850 pounds and earned only $4,639.

Several problems prevent the clubs from continuing the service. Operating costs continue to rise, which the club cannot afford.

Volunteer C.V. Tondreau said the mechanical crusher the group uses no longer works correctly. Someone must hold a lever down for the machine to retract, taking more of the

volunteers' time.

The volunteers' ages average in the early 70s, and replacing those who retire or die can take a few years. Finding volunteers always has been a struggle.

When Rinker retired, classified ads sought replacements. That's what caught Tondreau's attention, along with the prodding of fellow volunteer Bryce Fish.

Every Tuesday morning, volunteers have sorted through cans in the best and worst weather Sequim has to offer.

A continual problem has been trash put into the containers. Weekly, the group fills a truck with garbage and debris that must be disposed of.

Volunteers also list the poor shape of the collection boxes as a reason for stopping. Repairing the 21 boxes and barrels is out of reach financially.

Bob Schilling, executive director for the Boys & Girls Clubs, said the tough economic times could be another reason for the decrease in donations and service. He has driven to a few of the drop-off sites and found them empty. A few of the boxes even had been broken into, he said.

"We don't know if the community is giving less or taking for themselves," Schilling said.

Every penny counts for the Sequim and Port Angeles clubs as they continue to face budget concerns. The $5,000 the group has brought in has made a difference.

"It's a steady strand of income that we have to accommodate for,"

Schilling said.

He intends to offset that income through an increased effort in the

club's annual golf tournament, auction and Campaign 4 Kids fundraisers.

"Once the community understands this is happening, then they'll come together," Schilling said,

"We are here for the community, but people have to be here for us."

Still, there will be a lost tradition for the workers.

Tondreau said the volunteers will find something else to do on Tuesday mornings - some will go golfing or get more involved in their hobbies - but they don't have any plans to take up a new fundraiser.

"Fundraisers like the cans are hard to come by," Tondreau said.

No drop-off sites will be available in Sequim, but recycling is available through Murrey's Olympic Disposal, Sequim's trash service, that allows residents to mix trash and recyclables, including aluminum cans together in their bins.

Separated recyclables are accepted at the Blue Mountain Transfer Station on Blue Mountain Road west of Sequim.

Matthew Nash can be reached at

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