Thrift store keeps unwanted materials out of dump

photo Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press Keith Heming, top, director of operations at the Samaritan Center in Ooltewah, observes as Stanley Crook removes copper wiring from a television tube. "We had a garbage can full last week that brought $400," Heming said.

* What: Thrift store that recycles materials that cannot be resold.

* Company: The Samaritan Center

* Location: 9231 Lee Highway, Ooltewah

* How it's green: "The mere fact that we exist is how we're green," said Keith Heming, director of operations. Heming said by taking in the items that are sorted and then sold or recycled, the Samaritan Center keeps 200 to 400 tons of clothing, accessories, toys and electronics out of the landfill each year. "It doesn't go into the Dumpster," he said as he pointed to piles of bags filled with items in a warehouse. "If it is going in the Dumpster, we need to figure out a way to keep it out."

* Why do it this way? In addition to its commitment to helping the community through its programs, The Samaritan Center also strives to be a steward to the environment, Heming said. After doing some research, he realized that if the center recycled what it could not sell, it could make extra money for its programs and keep the items out of the landfill, a win-win situation, he said.

* Plans for expanding: Heming said he hopes to double the recycling efforts that are already being done, growing the recycling operation to the size of the thrift store so he can "provide jobs for people who are challenged mentally and physically."

* Advice for others considering green initiatives: "Do your homework," Heming said. "Don't just see what other people are doing and copy that."

* Is environmentalism an essential part of the business and why? Community stewardship is the group's main purpose, but environmentalism is quickly becoming a part of the overall operating philosophy, Heming said. The more items that are recycled, the more the center can do for the 4,000 people it helps each year through its programs, he said.

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