July at the Scrap Exchange


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Paola Kipp processing crafts


Written by Bryn Hammarberg

Paola Kipp wanted to get involved with The Scrap Exchange as soon as she moved to Durham 12 years ago. “As you get older, you have a better idea of what your mission in life is, what you’re supposed to do. I realized my mission when I discovered The Scrap Exchange,” she explains. However, she knew that for those who are passionate, The Scrap becomes their life, and with two young kids she had to wait until they were more independent before she could commit herself. Now they are older – her daughter is a junior in high school and her son is at NYU – and she has been able to give so much more.

Working at The Scrap Exchange has allowed Paola to accomplish personal goals that she has always been passionate about. Before moving to Durham, in New York City Paola worked at a community center where at-risk youth were offered an opportunity to interact with adults who didn’t see them as kids who repeated a grade or were caught stealing, but respected and valued them as people. Having experienced how programs like that can unite a community, she sees endless possibilities for what The Scrap Exchange could do to improve the neighborhood, especially with the young people. Lakewood is rapidly gentrifying, and for those unable to afford the rising rental costs, there are not many affordable activities during the summer.

Paola understands what many of these kids and their families are going through. When she immigrated to the United States from Peru in the early 1990’s, she did not speak English, and by the time she was 18 she was living on her own. Being an at-risk youth herself, she has experienced poverty, homelessness, and struggles with mental illness. Gentrification in New York City’s neighborhoods also meant frequent moves for her. Yet amazingly, she has been able to turn those trials into something useful.

“All of the things that I once saw as a hardship, as a struggle, have become a tool that I use every day to relate to people, to connect to people. We put our heads together, our experiences together, and help other people. And that is very rewarding.”

She says that while many of her coworkers deal with these hardships as well, they can take inspiration from their surroundings. They no longer need to rely on old ideas about themselves, they can create something new. That is the core philosophy of The Scrap Exchange that Paola embraces. “Opening people’s eyes and making them realize that they can be much more. Or that what they have created, even if they do not consider it art, you know, that is art,” says Paola.

Helping others, teachers who need cheap, discounted supplies, artists who cannot afford materials, or special needs volunteers who work and collaborate with the community is Paola’s focus today. Inspiring people is a part of her job too, from the plumber who never saw himself as an artist, to the reuse-minded person who just needs the encouragement to open their own reuse center.




By Ann May Woodward

We’d like to take a moment to honor Dr. Phail Wynn and the Office of Durham and Regional Affairs at Duke University for their commitment to and support of the Reuse Arts District community empowerment project.

At his retirement party he said to me, “We still have a lot of work to do.” He is right! He came in BIG with the project early on, letting us know that he and Duke had looked to the Lakewood Shopping Center many times to purchase and help steward its development. His support of our project opened doors for financial support and partnership opportunities with Duke. It also helped pave the way to begin conversations with the City and County of Durham. We will be eternally grateful for Dr. Wynn’s support for this project as we move forward in developing the Lakewood Shopping Center into a community asset.

My greatest hope is that he will continue (during his spare time!) to help support our vision and the process and partnerships needed to achieve it. As quoted in an article about community investment, revitalization and opportunities for youth in Durham, Dr. Wynn stated: “Those issues formed the basis of the plan of work that we’ve had in Durham & Regional Affairs. We have committed ourselves to a sustained, engaged partnership with the city of Durham, with Self-Help, and with the neighborhoods to make sure, working together, we can address these issues that will lead to a higher quality of life, even as the city continues to expand and revitalize downtown Durham.”

Scrap Fleet in Need of Some Love

For 27 years The Scrap Exchange vehicles have logged thousands of miles traveling to schools, companies and community events. Last year our collections team made nearly 250 material pickups and our Outreach Staff traveled to over 400 community events covering three states. After all these years/miles, the Scrap Fleet needs a lot of love!

This summer we are asking our supporters to consider helping us upgrade the fleet. Our goal of $20,000 will allow us to:

  • Retire a few high mileage vehicles
  • Purchase 1, maybe 2 used vans
  • Offset maintenance and repair costs
  • Utilize our vehicles for future marketing efforts

If you would like to help with this vital campaign, please click here to make your tax-deductible contribution.

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