Library program turns 'trash to treasures'

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by Joe Gamm, courtesy of News Tribune

Eric Lyon scrambled for and found bottles of glue — you know, the kind that "squishes out" — after a little girl asked for them late Tuesday morning at Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City (MO).

Lyon, the children's programming coordinator at the library, dashed about gathering parts and picking up after children.  It was a typical "Trash to Treasures" morning at MRRL.

"Welcome to the madhouse," he told adults who entered the gallery room, where dozens of children ran about grabbing cardboard toilet paper sleeves, boxes, buttons, feathers, beads and other bits of recyclables staff has been gathering since last year.

The children, whose ages ranged from about 3 and up, created some of the most unusual things. Three made cow masks, one made a diorama of a human's organs and others made items that defied description.

"They just go wild. It's a way to get kids to think of trash as something other than trash," Lyon said. "If you can re-purpose it rather than chuck it into a trash can, why not?"

Counting volunteering adults, parents, students from Helias Catholic and Jefferson City high schools, staff and children, about 60 people gathered in the gallery for the hour-long event.

It was the perfect opportunity for the Special Learning Center, which gives children with developmental delays and disabilities chances to expand their abilities, to take a field trip as part of Camp Jade. Camp Jade allows children to participate in activities — like sports, drama or craft camps — they otherwise may not get to.

The camp is named for Jade Renkemeyer, daughter of Heather Renkemeyer, and a former student of the center.

Heather Renkemeyer, director of the Special Learning Center Foundation, said the camp brings in guests to present drama classes and dance classes and to perform music. Camp participants go bowling, learn gymnastics and go to the library.

Children in the camp may have autism, cerebral palsy, behavior issues or other conditions that sometimes prevent them from being involved in activities.Volunteers and staff know how to work with each of the children's needs, she said.

"This is the 13th year of the camp," Renkemeyer said. "We have kids who come back every year."

Some of the children who were clients are now volunteers, she said.  "The fun part (of Trash to Treasures) is seeing what they come up with," Lyon said. "They have a blast. They see the library as a dynamic space."

Ten-year-old Olivia Carrender described her accomplishment, made up of a medicine bottle, stickers, pom poms, buttons and a dry noodle.  "It's a horrible creation," Olivia announced. "I thought it would be cute decorations."

Adding a pickle might help, she thought aloud.  "I might just draw one."

Isabelle Mutert, 7, used "stuff" to make her own item.  It incorporated noodles and feathers and fluffy balls.  "And that's all," Isabelle said. "Mom will like it."  Her sister will, too, she added.

Identifying what the children make can sometimes be difficult.  Some children had no plan. Others always have a plan, Lyon said.  "We don't even give them an example," he said. "But, if they ask, we'll give them ideas."