Student reduces trash, benefits charities Student program reduces trash generated by moving out of dorms, benefits charity organizations

Extra notebooks, inconvenient wall mirrors and old shower caddies can tend to end up in the trash can instead of the car when cleaning out residence hall rooms in the spring. DeeAnn Turpin, senior in biological systems engineering, wanted to change that. Last spring, Turpin collaborated with the Student United Way of Riley County to organize the first K-State residence hall version of the “Give It Up for Good” program and collected almost 40 tons of goods to donate to the needy.

“I wanted to know why people weren’t donating their old stuff to the Salvation Army that they were throwing away,” Turpin said. “They said it was an inconvenience. That’s where I started.”

Turpin took the observation and started brainstorming ways to solve the problem.

“I wanted to start something in the dorms where people could donate their things during finals weeks instead of just throwing all their unwanted stuff away,” Turpin said. “I found out through one of my friends that the United Way does a similar program, but not on campus.”

Turpin worked the Student United Way of Riley County to set up a donation program for the spring 2011 finals week. Boxes were placed in each residence hall for students to donate their unwanted items.

“We collected anything that wasn’t perishable, damaged, or ruined. As long as it could fit in or around the box, we collected it,” Turpin said. “We got a lot of lamps, mirrors, carpets, stuff like that.”

During the collection week, a total of 40 tons, or 80,000 pounds, of goods were collected. Turpin and approximately 200 volunteers worked to sort and organize the collected goods. At the end of the week, the items were put up for sale in Manhattan’s Griffith Park.

“We sold as much as we could. We raised $2,500 and all of that was given to local charities, like the United Way and Habitat for Humanity,” Turpin said. “What we couldn’t sell, we donated to other charities that could use them. None of it was thrown in the trash.”

In order to gather the tons of goods, Turpin relied on word of mouth and digital advertising.

“At first, it was just word of mouth. Then we got 100 posters made and put them up in the dorms,” Turpin said. “I used Facebook to tell all my friends about it, and also sent out emails to all the groups I was in to let people know. Someone in one of the groups got the event listed as the first event on the K-State calendar online. That was a huge success because a lot of people check that.”

The use of digital technology caught the attention of the United Way organization and earned K-State an Innovation Award for “creative uses of electronic media to engage the student population in giving and advocating,” according to the United Way website. The accomplishment was recognized at a conference last May in Orlando, Fla. Turpin was unable to attend the awards ceremony, but said she is very pleased with how the first year of the project went and the impact it made.

“I would say the whole thing benefits everyone,” Turpin said. “It teaches people that you shouldn’t just throw your stuff away because you aren’t using it. That creates a lot of waste. We prevented 80,000 pounds of stuff from going in the landfills.”

Maria Paukstelis, chemistry instructor, heard about Turpin’s community service last spring from her daughter-in-law, Dianne Paukstelis, the executive director at the United Way of Riley County.

“DeeAnn just seems to have boundless energy to do this,” Paukstelis said. “I was so impressed that, at the end of the semester, when most people are just cramming for tests, she was working for others.”

Some of that boundless energy went to going above and beyond for her project, Paukstelis said.

“She told me that she was in a dumpster, throwing out the good stuff that other people had thrown away so that students could collect it and take it to the bins,” Paukstelis said.

Paukstelis wasn’t the only one who noticed Turpin’s efforts in the project. Candice McIntosh, operations manager at the United Way of Riley County, worked with Turpin on her project last spring.

“It fulfills a need for the university and community both,” McIntosh said. “We were able to collect so many tons of furniture and goods. We were able to keep it out of landfills and alleys and trash. We were able to give it back to community members who needed, people who were starting their homes, or transitioning from the shelters, or coming from Fort Riley.”

While it is still the fall semester, Turpin is already thinking about this spring.

“I’m planning on making it an annual event,” Turpin said. “I’m also looking for people who are interested in learning about it. When I graduate, I want people who can continue it.”

McIntosh also hopes that the project can continue.

“We just hope that the event continues to grow to where it’s something that the students expect each year,” McIntosh said. “We want it to be that they know to donate it instead of throwing it out, or that they will save it during the year to put in the collection bin for us.”

As Turpin works toward a second K-State residence hall “Give It Up For Good” campaign, Paukstelis expressed her appreciation and respect for Turpin.

“This young woman worked so hard and she’s done so much for K-State,” Paukstelis said. “I really admire her. I hope she continues to inspire others to help. She’s working very hard to be in school, and to make her school experience for not only her, but for others.”