Salvaging the Scrap Exchange | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It

Salvaging the Scrap Exchange 

The Scrap Exchange, located in downtown Durham, has worked hard for 10 years to collect and distribute industrial waste for reuse in the arts and education, toward "increasing environmental awareness and promoting creativity." Scores of children have walked through the Scrap Exchange gleaning bagfuls of byproducts: fabric and foam rubber, paper and plastic. It's "a total gem," claims Robin Magee, drama coordinator at the School of Science and Math in Durham. "Fabulous for costume and set pieces at low expense to those of us doing theater on a low budget."

The Scrap Exchange serves teachers, day-care providers, parents, event coordinators and artists through in-store sales, birthday parties and workshops. The organization conducts about 400 workshops annually, and is very active in the Durham Public Schools, helping reinforce teachers' curricula (about the rain forest or music, for example). Their booths are a standard feature at events like Durham's Centerfest and Raleigh's First Night. They work with local museums, libraries and parks and recreation departments. A dozen similar programs from around the country have sent representatives for training at the Scrap Exchange, which alone provides services to six states.

The director, Pat Hoffman, has just resigned, after eight years at the Scrap Exchange. Hoffman says she is "leaving without regrets and with lots of gratitude." She's still very enthusiastic about the service Scrap Exchange is providing to the Triangle, but the heavy workload, lack of community resources and constant fundraising efforts have depleted her.

Hoffman categorizes the Scrap Exchange as an "entrepreneurial nonprofit." The organization brought in almost $200,000 this year, through sales, events and workshop fees. Up until a couple of years ago, that level of income was sufficient. But when the organization lost the space previously subsidized by Northgate Mall, the cost of renting a building added a heavy burden. Board president Jacob Ehrisman says there's been a real effort to keep prices affordable for those who need the materials. Workshops are offered at fees less than the cost of providing them.

September and October are normally the busiest months for the Scrap Exchange. But this year sales are down, as are requests for workshops, another consequence of the sinking economy and people's understandable preoccupation with war. Ehrisman fears that the Scrap Exchange may have to sell off its stock and vehicles, and "go into hibernation" until the spring.

But it's not just a monetary shortfall that's brought about this current crisis. Board members are alarmed by the lack of community involvement and the unwillingness on the part of local agencies to provide consistent funding for the organization. "We need somebody to subsidize it because they see how valuable it is," says Hoffman. "We're trying to figure out how to get stakeholders invested in the organization."

If unable to secure funding from the public agencies they serve and develop a larger base of volunteers from the community, the Scrap Exchange may well not survive.

So what can you do to keep the Scrap Exchange around? If you live in Durham, contact your local representatives and urge them to find funding. And your monetary donations are more than welcome. The Scrap Exchange held two public meetings (Nov. 8 and 11) to gather community input. A Scrap Exchange Restructuring Committee is being established. Volunteers are needed to serve on this committee for three months, to redesign the organization and its relationship with the community. Even shorter-term volunteers are needed to make phone calls and send out e-mail.

"It will never be too late to resurrect this great idea," says Hoffman. "It could be revived if people see the beauty of this thing."

(For more information, call the Scrap Exchange at 688-6960, or go to www.scrapexchange.org.)

Latest in Front Porch

More by Tonie Lilley

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Nobody will be surprised to learn that Hocutt never went to Nam. He was in the Navy but washed out …

by Jefflenter on Raleigh bad boy no more (Front Porch)

I see his concern. Yes, it was a well written story and showed his caring side for sure. But not …

by Linda Bates Terrell on Motorcycle men (Front Porch)

Follow-up to my "nervous mom" comment. The last coupe of weeks we have been in many situations with individuals that …

by paulapowers on Governor's School blues (Front Porch)

Comments

'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Most Read

  1. Dot-con (Peripheral Visions)
  2. Smug Revisionism (Letters to the Editor)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation