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RE-use helps people improve homes while improving the environment

April 13, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - A donated Volvo is parked near the entrance of the Tri-State RE-use Center, but it's no ordinary car. Rather, it serves as a kind of living testament to the reality of turning trash into treasure.

"We had a group of school kids working on that car," said Hope Cucina Hargett, who founded the center in 1998. The car, which is fully operational, is covered from hood to bumper with used tiles of every color in the rainbow in a mozaic motif.

That effort was part of the 2002 "It Pays to Re-use" contest. In 2003, former resident Phyllis Vallario won with her patio created with material reclaimed from the Tri-State RE-use Center.

Hargett said the contest is being revived this year with a $200 prize for the first-place winner, $100 for second place and $50 for third.

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There are examples all around Hancock, Hargett said, of the ingenuity of people when it comes to using what others have thrown away to create function and beauty.

She cites a garage north of town built of old shipping pallets and scrap lumber, window dressings made from exterior trim molding in a sunburst design, and old tires turned into flower pots, swings and shoe soles.

A number of residents have enclosed porches with used patio glass sliding door panels, resulting in new living spaces at very cost-effective prices.

Creative solutions, Hargett said, is what she is looking for.

Entrants will submit photos of their project, which must use at least 51 percent recycled or re-used materials. A short essay on the creation and development of the project should be included.

All entries must be postmarked by May 13 at 1 p.m. and dropped off at the office at 225 W. Main St. in Hancock.

The judges will announce the winners May 20 at the 4th Annual Chili Bowl Cook-off at Widmeyer Park, Hargett said.

"We are in our seventh year," Hargett said from her office. "And we are finally self-sufficient ... for the first time."

Hargett, who came to Hancock in 1994, worked in a similar but much larger enterprise in Baltimore.

"I wanted to do this here because there was such a big need," she said. "When you are a tourist, you don't notice the substandard housing and the dirty diapers dumped in the woods."

David Hott, a contractor and RE-use board member, said he has donated a lot to the center and he has used some, too. There are five board members with plans to add two positions.

The mission statement is to provide decent, affordable housing, conserve natural resources and encourage self-empowerment through advocating self-sufficiency.

Hargett said more than 25 percent of the 400 individuals and 100 to 120 organizations, contractors and businesses that make up the membership also volunteer at the center.

"You can purchase one time from the center and after that, you must join," Hargett said. For a small membership fee, the trash/treasures are available at bargain prices.

"People are very generous with their ideas and time," Hargett said.

As she spoke, a truck pulled in and unloaded dozens of contractors' buckets.

Hargett said nothing tickles her more than when "shoppers" come in and find some paint to revitalize their home and it uplifts them.

"One man came and bought the biggest picture window we had for his wife who wanted to sit in her trailer and look outside, and he did it for about 10 percent of retail," Hargett said.

The center, which is a nonprofit clearinghouse, accepts and distributes good, usable, sometimes new and sometimes vintage building materials such as roofing, rafters, electrical supplies, plumbing items, glass, gutters, shower stalls, copiers, appliances and many other items.

The Hancock warehouse serves low-income residents in Washington County, Fulton County, Pa., and Morgan County, W.Va.

Hargett said the center takes something that would otherwise end up buried in a landfill and puts it to use in low-income housing to improve quality of life. At the same time, the environment benefits.

For more information, call 301-678-6160. The center is open Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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