Church members and their neighbors collect a wide range of scrap metal for recycling, and turn the proceeds into clean water for communities in need. Photo: Jason Burghart.
From waste to clean water: a Colorado church responds to the worldwide water crisis.
Several years ago, Jason and Kelly Burghart, members of First United Methodist Church in Windsor, Colo., participated in a parish forum about clean water around the world. They were struck not only by the worldwide need for clean water but also by the injustices surrounding access to water in many countries.
As they had children during those years, they began to focus even more on the fact that clean water is a finite resource. “We came out of this thinking we had to do something,” said Jason Burghart. “We talked about it and prayed about it.”
In 2011 — after working with the church trustees to determine an appropriate collection point on the church grounds — the Burgharts began operating a metal-recycling program for their congregation, with the idea of directing proceeds to clean-water projects. The collection location, behind the church building, is not visible from the street.
“A lot of people weren't even aware that you can recycle different kinds of metal — old farm equipment, old faucets, junker cars. We collect scrap and junk metal and cans. There are different breakdowns in price for aluminum, copper and brass,” Burghart explained.
Once a week — sometimes more often — Burghart drives the various pieces of metal to a local metal recycling company. Over the four years the Burgharts have been operating the program, the collections have grown larger and larger.
Outpouring of results
The metal-recycling program has grown out of the congregation and into the community through church members who spread the word to coworkers and friends. From the smallest contribution of a single can to larger cars and appliances, every piece of metal makes money that the church gives to the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program (WASH) of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
“Some people bring five or six cans,” said Burghart, who usually makes a delivery of cans alone to be recycled once a month. In the summertime, he steps up to a weekly can delivery.
“We have raised a little over $4,000 through scrap metal and cans,” he said.
“That $4,000 can help provide clean water for a small community, and if the community is organized and resourceful enough, it will last them for their entire lives,” commented Mike Barbee, UMCOR technical officer for WASH programs. “Anyone can do this anywhere in the U.S. — and help solve the world’s clean-water crisis,” he underscored.
First UMC’s slogan? Together, We “CAN” Change the World! Burghart is modest about his role as primary metal hauler. “All the glory goes to God,” he said. “And, if it weren't for the people in the congregation, we couldn't do this. It's all one big family.”
In 2015, UMCOR celebrates 75 years of being with those in times of crisis. You can support UMCOR efforts to provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene to communities in need with your gift to UMCOR Water and Hygiene, Advance #3020600.
Susan Kim, journalist and regular contributor to www.umcor.org
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