Church takes on recycling as a mission


Paul Jantzen (left) and Randy Smith, of the First Mennonite ?Green Team,? toss bottles into the No. 1 plastics bin at the Hillsboro Recycling Center. The Green Team has begun coordinating the volunteers who assist at the center on Thurs?day evenings and Saturday mornings. David Vogel / Free Press

For any church, the terrain for service stretches as far and wide as the world. But sometimes the call can be as close as one?s back yard.

For First Mennonite Church, Hillsboro, that statement is almost literal.

The Hillsboro recycling center, located only a short walk from First Mennonite?s building, has been without a strong organizer since Paul Jantzen, the city-employed coordinator for nearly a decade, had to withdraw for health reasons.

?I took a leave for hip replacement surgery in 2007,? Jantzen said.

Jantzen said he has been concerned about the responsible use of natural resources since he was a child.

?Caring for the earth is one of the tenets of our Christian faith,? Jantzen said. ?So when the city asked me in 1998 to coordinate volunteers at the recycling center, it was natural for me to accept the position.?

Jantzen, a retired Hillsboro High School biology teacher, is also a member of First Mennonite.

?Difficulties in reorganizing led the church?s mission team to accept the responsibility as an outreach project for the community,? Jantzen said. ?Pastor Randy Smith provides enthusiastic support.?

Smith said he feels the community-operated recycling center is a vital part of Hillsboro; a feature that struck him and his wife, Ann, when they moved to Hillsboro three years ago.

?The city was not able to find anyone ready to give the time and attention that Paul gave, and the facility and volunteer schedule began to decline from lack of maintenance,? Smith said.

Because the recycling center wasn?t under anyone?s oversight, the city eventually decided to leave the center unlocked instead of scheduling open hours.

?As a result, the county removed the hazardous household waste cabinet,? Smith said. ?We?re still working to get that back.?

Because the center needed attention, Smith suggested to City Administrator Larry Paine that there might be interest at First Mennonite to coordinate the center. This interest has led to the formation of the ?Green Team,? a committee of six at First Mennonite.

Green Team members include Jantzen and his wife Elaine, Ron Heidebrecht, Lee Albrecht and Randy and Ann Smith.

?We discussed this opportunity to coordinate the center with our church mission committee and they agreed it is an important mission we should pursue,? Smith said.

The Green Team has taken on the responsibility to make sure the recycling center is organized, well-managed and clean. The team delegated certain operations?such as recruiting, scheduling and orienting volunteers, grounds maintenance, locking and unlocking the center and record keeping?among each of the six members.

?All help to keep the yard clean so that we?re good neighbors,? Jantzen said.

Since the center again has strong leadership under Paine?s supervision, Smith said the Green Team is relying on community volunteers to help.

?We still see this as a community effort,? he said. ?We depend on lots of volunteers to staff the center during the hours it is open.?

Without volunteers, the center could not operate properly, Jantzen said.

Smith is pleased with the consistent support from several local community clubs and organizations?as well as other individuals?that provide help on a regular monthly schedule.

?We are very thankful for their help,? he said.

But they can still use more help from local people who are willing to work a shift of two to three hours each month.

?These could be individuals or groups, such as a Sunday school class, that take responsibility to staff one of these shifts every month,? Smith said. ?When you think about it, this is not a huge time commitment, but it is an important service.?

Smith said he is excited about this opportunity for his church to get involved.

?Investing ourselves in the mission of recycling is also a good way for First Mennonite to make a positive statement to the community and give our church an identity through a mission that is important to our faith convictions,? he said.

Jantzen agreed.

?Recycling is important because it uses available resources rather than wasting them,? he said. ?It reduces the burial of used items in landfills that use precious land and pollute ground water. It reduces burning, which pollutes the air we breath. And it saves energy needed to manufacture materials from their original natural condition.?

People who want to volunteer can call the First Mennonite Church office at 620-947-5662 or Jantzen at 620-947-5433.

The recycling center is located on Birch Street, just behind The Lumberyard Rentals, and is open Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., or Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Smith said the center accepts about anything that is recyclable, including plastic shopping bags and hazardous household waste such as chemicals, paint and engine oil.

?Recycling is a spiritual issue,? Smith said. ??Reduce, reuse, recycle? is a statement about how we view God?s creation and our place in it. Recycling is a mission of God?s resources and it is a service to the people of our community.?

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