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Volunteer Raises Bar for Recycling

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February 6, 2011 by wcobserver

By Susan McCarthy

About five years ago, Paul Libor answered a call to volunteer at the newly opened Renewable Resource Center (RRC) in West Fork.  If you’ve ever been to the recycling center, then you know that Libor has become a fixture.  He laughs when asked how many hours he’s logged, because he isn’t counting.

“I like doing it.  I know it’s doing good; that’s what I see,” said Libor who retired about seven years ago after back surgery forced him to leave concrete work behind.

Libor is at the recycling center every Saturday, arriving early to set up and staying until everything is back in its place and the gate is locked.  He is oblivious to the heat of the summer, or the frigid cold in January.  When it’s pouring down rain, he’s still there.  It takes an ice storm or an occasional holiday to close the place; otherwise it’s recycling as usual in West Fork.

But recycling itself is unusual in West Fork and most of its uniqueness can be attributed to Libor and Patty Baker (another story could be written on Baker who is also synonymous with recycling as well as many other community endeavors).

Baker recruits volunteers from the community that pledge to spend a Saturday morning helping unload recyclables and sorting them.  A steady stream of cars, trucks and even bicycles swing through a circular drive at the RRC and volunteers enthusiastically approach each visitor, unloading their recyclables.   Senior citizens never have to leave their car.  And doggies that ride along with their recycling owners are rewarded with treats.  After each vehicle is unloaded, volunteers comb through the recyclables to ensure everything has been correctly sorted.  Newbie recyclers are given brochures, tips and encouragement.

Libor patiently teaches each week’s volunteers how to meticulously separate the recyclables and where to place them in a massive steel 10-bin container and nearby “cardboard trailer.”

Tim Moore, Plant Manager of Greenland Composites said he likes purchasing plastic waste from West Fork because it is so “clean” and his company doesn’t have to sort through it to remove what shouldn’t be there.

Patti Baker, from left, takes a cookie break with volunteers Larry Caudle, Paul Libor and Julie Edwards Saturday at West Fork’s recycle center on Campbell Road. Volunteers come out to the center every Saturday morning to help residents sort their recyclables.

Libor and Baker are also responsible for the vibrant atmosphere that keeps volunteers returning, many of them youth groups from the area.

“He leads by example, not by his mouth.  I think the kids see that,” said Katrina DeGraff whose West Fork Martial Arts students volunteer once a month at the RRC.

“In the summer he’s not above a water pistol fight,” said Baker.

There are obvious signs that Libor caters to his younger volunteers.  A ladder he built hangs on the side of the cardboard trailer to make it easy for kids to climb in and out.  He built a step-up all the way around the massive steel bin so kids can easily reach the openings to deposit steel cans, newspapers, mixed paper, and various spots for glass.

“They’re a lot of fun to be with; they have a blast…jumping up and down on cardboard to pack it, throwing glass in the bin,” said Libor.

Baker says the kids look forward to hot cocoa, cookies, sodas and other snacks that Libor ensures are always on-hand.

“At Halloween, Paul made these absolutely amazing cupcakes that looked like tarantulas. He made them for the volunteers,” said DeGraff.  “That says what kind of person he is.  We need more people like him and Patty Baker, we really do.”

“You can count on him to remember all the details,” said Baker.

And the list of “details” rivals what some might call a job.  He hauls aluminum cans to Fayetteville to sell.  He makes repairs.  He picks up paper waste set aside for recycling from the West Fork post office every day.  He makes sure the coffee is on and that volunteers have gloves and even hats.

When asked what Libor thinks his mission is, he doesn’t miss a beat.

“To get the whole town to recycle.  Not even a quarter of the people do it.”

Libor said he’d like to see the RRC, the City of West Fork and the town’s garbage collection service work more closely together to provide more incentives for people to recycle.

In his free time, Libor calls bingo every other week at the West Fork Community Center, gardens and goes fishing.  He’s also the one that built the crocodile bookcase for the children’s library at the West Fork Municipal Library.

“I can’t sit down; even at home, I’m always doing something,” said Libor.

Four weeks a year the RRC makes due without him when Libor takes a vacation, heading to Alaska to see his daughter or to Minnesota to hit his favorite fishing spot.

“I like to help.  I mean…if someone needs something and I can.  I want to be a happy decent citizen.  That’s all,” said Libor.  But he quickly adds with a hearty laugh, “But I’m a staunch Democrat.”

The West Fork Renewable Resource Center is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon and opens an hour earlier during summer months to be open at the same time as the Garden Market.  If you’d like to volunteer, you can call Patty Baker at 479-200-6072.  The RRC is open to anyone who recycles, not just those living within West Fork city limits.

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