It all began with a cage for a guinea pig. But while looking for timber for said cage, Kevin Ellis stumbled across the National Community Woods Recycling Project (NCWRP), an organisation based in Brighton that aims to save wood destined for landfill and to help volunteers develop new skills. It was this organisation that sparked Kevin’s desire to begin his own wood recycling group, which he did and named East Midlands Wood Recycling (EMWR). He had found the NCWRP in November 2011 and had set up EMWR by January 2012. ‘No one has ever set up that quick,’ Kevin told us.
Kevin has a wealth of experience. He was in the Armed Forces and served in the Falklands; he was a Security Manager with the Prison Service; he has a degree in Social Work; and prior to beginning EMWR, he worked in the charity sector, where he helped people with alcohol and gambling problems. He can now say he has started an organisation that has grown to the size of six part-time employees (all who had begun as volunteers at EMWR) and ten volunteers.
Of course, the most important aspect of EMWR is the volunteers, who have a range of duties. To begin with, no matter what their skill level, a volunteer must collect the wood from the yard, carry it to the warehouse, and remove any nails from it. They must also check to ensure that the wood is suitable for use. The new volunteer does this until they are settled in. From there, they could progress to helping in the shop (which is a wonderful space decorated with furniture and other items made by the volunteers), being a driver’s mate (which can help to develop their communication skills and to allow them to network), or actually constructing the items (such as tables, chairs, and cupboards) ready for sale.
This variety of tasks makes EMWR a great place for a volunteer to develop a wide range of skills. This, of course, has its benefits. As Mark, one of the volunteers, puts it, ‘There’s so much good that comes out of it. You stand a better chance of getting into work.’ And on the benefits of volunteering itself, ‘It does your head good.’
But another important aspect of the organisation is the amount of wood it saves. We spoke to Simon, a part-time employee who works as a driver. He had originally joined as a volunteer after he had been out of work for a while due to a serious back injury. He told us, ‘We have saved so much wood from going into landfill. It really is incredible.’
What is also incredible is the organisation’s future. Kevin said he would like to start offering workshops to members of the public at some point, which is exciting news. He would also like to recruit more volunteers, with the aim of each volunteer having specialist roles.
If you would like to see the type of work EMWR do, you should have a look at their Facebook page. And if you ever have any free time, you should visit them at The Old Pattern Shop on Litchurch Lane. See for yourself the wooden toys, such as boats and planes, in the shop. Or perhaps just pop in just to say hello to Mark, Simon, and the other volunteers and employees, who are all great examples as to why our community needs a place like East Midlands Wood Recycling.