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The Birches Assisted Living

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Birches Resident Inspires Community-Wide Recycling Program

Birches Assisted Living resident Tom Donnelly helped create a recycling program at his new community.

Clarendon Hills, IL, November 18, 2016 --( When Tom and Jean Donnelly moved to The Birches Assisted Living in Clarendon Hills, Ill. in 2015, they joined a community that had everything they needed: a cozy apartment, homemade food, an active social calendar. But Tom Donnelly soon noticed one important thing was missing - a place to recycle his cans and newspapers.

“It bothered me to see aluminum cans in the trash,” said Donnelly. “I’ve always tried to recycle everything I can.”

By the time Donnelly moved to The Birches, he had already been an active recycler for several decades. In fact, he started recycling cans and newspapers at local junk yards long before most villages started their own curbside recycling pick-up programs.

His motivation for being an early-adopter of recycling was pragmatic; it put extra money in his pocket because junk yards were willing to pay him for certain recyclables. But he also recognized that recycling is just a smarter use of resources.

“It’s expensive to get aluminum from the ore,” said Donnelly. “But it’s easy to fabricate aluminum once you already have some. They can melt those cans and turn them in to things we need.”

It didn’t take long before Donnelly expressed his recycling concerns to The Birches’ Executive Director Jackie Sander. Sander understood his concerns because she too had wanted to create a recycling program at The Birches but struggled to find an inexpensive and efficient way to get one started.

“We’ve always wanted to start recycling in our community, but it just never got off the ground,” said Sander. “Once Tom moved in, he was the inspiration and motivation we needed to change that.”

Donnelly and Sander began working together to put a program in place. And within several months of their initial conversation, they had done exactly that. Today, Donnelly believes The Birches recycling program is a success. The community is now equipped to recycle nearly everything, and residents are participating.

Donnelly says there is still some work to do, however. One material The Birches can’t recycle is Styrofoam. But Sander is working on a practical solution this problem. She is considering phasing out The Birches’ use of Styrofoam and replacing it with an easily recyclable material like plastic.

Sander and Donnelly are also constantly educating community members about the importance of recycling. Because, truth be told, not everyone in the community has been an avid recycler for decades like Donnelly. It has taken some reminding to help residents change their habits, but most of them are now embracing the effort. And, in the rare instances when they slip up, Donnelly has their back.

“Whenever I see an aluminum can in the trash, I pick it up and put it into the recycling,” said Donnelly. “I do the same thing if I’m walking down the street and I see an aluminum can. I pick it up.”

The Birches Assisted Living in Clarendon Hills, Ill. offers professional services to support the physical, social, intellectual and spiritual growth of the older adults who make it their home. The Birches offers purposeful programming and activities designed to promote a healthy aging lifestyle and a strong sense of community. For more information about The Birches, call 630-789-1135 or visit:
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The Birches Assisted Living
Jenny Smiechowski

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