‘Can’-do attitude key to assisting neighbor in need

After the windstorm in June, neighbors on Elm Street in Hillsboro found debris strewn across their lawns.

“There were shingles scattered all over our yards, across the street,” Charles Rempel said last week. “You can still see some shingle pieces on the road.”

Most of those scattered shingles were evidence of damage to his neighbor’s house, already in need of roof repair.

“It’s been an ongoing problem we’ve been talking about doing,” Rempel said about organizing a project to reshingle the roof. “(The storm) has severely aggravated the situation.”

Rempel has helped with some temporary repairs to the roof because his neighbor, Ivan Nickel, has cancer and his financial resources are limited.

“He’s doing pretty well right now, but in winter and early spring he wasn’t doing so well,” Rempel said. “He’s had quite a bit of back pain.”

So Rempel and his father-in-law decided to pitch in and help Nickel with his ongoing recycling project.

For more than nearly 15 years, Nickel had collected and recycled aluminum cans and donated the money toward eye care through the Lion’s Club.

“About March, we started crushing cans, and he took two loads of cans-filled in the back of his van,” Rempel said.

That sparked an idea for helping Nickel get his roof reshingled-Rempel decided to promote a “Love your Neighbor Benevolence Fund.”

“My basic idea is we’re always asking for money around here, it seems to be an ongoing thing,” Rempel said. “But if people would donate cans, we could fund this (project) in a relatively short time.

“It was about 1,000 pounds of cans that we crushed. If we could do that a couple of times, we could come close to paying for (the shingles).”

Rempel said he talked with Nickel about the idea and he recently agreed to designate money received from selling cans toward purchasing shingles for his house.

“I am figuring it would be close to $3,000 just for the cost of materials and shingles,” Rempel said.

Rempel said there’s interest from some at Trinity Mennonite Church to volunteer the labor.

“There are barrels in front of his house,” Rempel said. “So we’re already getting the cans from a number of places. People are already bringing cans.”

Just the other day, one person brought sacks full of cans that filled four 55-gallon barrels.

“If we could pick up some more here and there…(and with) a little bit of motivation and encouragement here and there…we could pick up a lot of cans,” Rempel said.

“It would add up quite quickly if we just collect them.”

Rempel said the price of aluminum cans is about 65 to 85 cents per pound.

“It depends on where you go,” he added.

Most people go through more cans than they realize, Rempel added.

“If you drink a six-pack a week-pop, beer or whatever-and you just save it every week,” Rempel said. “There are people who even do maybe a 24-pack a week. It doesn’t take a month or two and you’ve got a pretty good collection of cans if you’re willing to recycle them.”

Nickel built a can crusher that works best with uncrushed cans.

Unrau periodically works a shift at the can crusher, and he estimated that in about two hours, he can crush cans that filled a 50-gallon barrel.

“It’s better for cans to be uncrushed,” Unrau said about cans deposited in Nickel’s barrels that are lined in front of his garage.

Rempel added: “If you get a half-crushed can or a twisted can in there, it doesn’t feed well. So it’s much easier to put the whole can in there and let the machine do it.”

Unrau recently put in about 10 hours of crushing cans and filled five or six 55-gallon drums with crushed cans.

“That’s a lot of cans,” he said.

Empty barrels are lined against the garage doors at Nickel’s house, located at 205 S. Elm, next door to Trinity Mennonite Church, so people drop off their collection of cans and put them in the barrels.

“They bring them in sacks and toss them into the barrels,” Rempel said. “If they want to bring loose cans and just put them in the barrels, that’s fine.

“We’ve got more barrels we can put out,” he added.

Emprise Bank has opened an account for the “Love Your Neighbor Benevolent Fund.”

“If people want to make a donation, they can,” Rempel said.

Rempel said perhaps this kind of project can be expanded beyond reshingling Nickel’s roof.

“Maybe down the years we could do things for others, too,” Rempel said.

Funds can be designated for the “Love Your Neighbor Benevolent Fund” at Emprise Bank. For more information, call 947-3773.

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