As the Marketing and Education Coordinator for Recycle Saline, Tiffany Dunn knew she wanted to do more get kids involved in recycling in Saline County. Three years ago she developed the YEA! program (Youth Environmental Ambassadors), a group comprised of students from grades 3rd to 12th who are interested in recycling in their communities.
Tiffany enlisted the help of teachers across the four school districts and 27 schools in Saline County and soon more than 150 students signed up within the first year.
The students began recycling paper and plastic materials while at school-in total, the county recycled 100 tons during the 2014-2015 school year.
During that same year Tiffany met Joe Maneiro, the program director for Recycle Bikes for Kids during a meeting with the Arkansas Recycling Coalition. Tiffany learned more about the Recycle Bikes for Kids program and how their team of volunteers provides refurbished bikes to children in need. She knew she had to get the YEA! program involved.
“Recycle Bikes for Kids is an amazing program and I knew we needed to be a part of this,” explains Tiffany. “It’s not only exciting for us to partner with this organization and to get our kids involved, but the kids love to give the bikes to the community.”
Now three years into the program, there are approximately 370 kids participating in the YEA! program.
Each year, the YEA! program kids volunteer their time at bicycle collection events. Together the kids collect the bicycles that will be refurbished and given to children during the holidays. “We had two to three people with trailer loads of the bicycles to donate this year,” says Tiffany. “Some are brand new and have never been used. The donors usually thank us for providing the event and a way of giving back to the community.” Thanks to the generosity of the community, 297 bikes were collected this year.
With the help of the Recycle Saline and the Recycle Bikes for Kids program, students make a field trip to the warehouse in Little Rock to work on repairing the bicycles. “They are very hands-on,” says Tiffany. “From changing wheels to fixing pedals and seats, the kids make it a brand new bicycle. Whatever is wrong with the bicycle, they learn how to fix it.”
Once the bicycles are refurbished, the students deliver the bikes to the schools. From there the school delivers the bicycles to the children who need them most. “Last year, we took the repurposed bikes, to Ringold and Howard Perrin elementary schools,” remembers Lindsey Winters, a sophomore at Benton High. “It made me feel special working on this project and knowing a child would have a Christmas present, something they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Being a part of the process was really cool.”
Lindsey also participates in the Refashion event hosted by Recycle Saline, an event where students design their own clothes out of recycled materials and model their designs in a runway-style fashion show.
For Tiffany, it’s been incredible witnessing the growth of the program over three short years. “I enjoy being able to help the kids and showing them the different ways that they can work with the community,” says Tiffany. “The teachers are so passionate about the program. They want to promote recycling in our schools and give their time and that’s so exciting.”
On average it is estimated a student will spend anywhere from 10-20 hours on refurbishing one bicycle. Children 8 years-old to 18 years-old are donating their time to bring joy to a child in their community. The YEA! volunteers are working hard to make sure all bicycles are delivered by December 15 in plenty of time for a child to receive their bike for Christmas.
For more information about the YEA! Program or to make a donation call 501-776-2533.