Probably the youngest winner in Prism Award history appeared on the stage Wednesday night.
Erek “EcoErek” Hansen, an 11-year-old Jerusalem Township resident, was honored by the judges for his role in recycling everything from denim to shoes, to, you name it.
Hansen arrived at the ceremony thinking he was getting a chance to tell guests about his recycling operation, so the Eisenhour Middle School student was surprised to find out he was being honored.
|Erek accepting denim from EMBC's Sarah
Beavers and Larry Shaffer. (Photo by Ken
Hansen pointed out to guests that one glass bottle takes 4,000 years to decompose. He is in the Guiness Book of World Records for “Largest Collection of Clothing to Recycle.”
In three years, Hansen collected 9,758 pairs of denim jeans — enough to insulate 19½ homes.
Hansen collected denim in 2011 on behalf of Cotton From Blue to Green. The collected denim is shredded into cotton fibers and remanufactured into housing insulation to benefit communities affected by natural disasters. In the past, the denim insulation has gone to Habitat for Humanity to help communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast region.
In his 2011 drive, he collected exactly 3,000 pairs of shoes and since he began his program has collected 20,000 pounds of recycled goods.
In 2011, a partnership with USAgain allowed Hansen to collect unwanted shoes of any condition. The shoes are shipped to USAgain in Chicago then sorted. Those that are in good condition are re-directed to those who need them, and shoes in poor condition are ground to make raw material for sidewalks, running tracks, carpet underlayment and playground mulch.
“It’s a win-win for everyone involved. With your help, I kept these textiles out of our Northwest Ohio landfills,” Hansen says on his website, www.ecoerek.org — a message he reiterated at the ceremony.
“Recycling is something I like to do,” Hansen said. “Helping to save Planet Earth’s resources is important to me. I like to read about ways that we humans can be resourceful with our stuff. Not everything can and should get thrown in the landfill. There is only so much room for all of our garbage. I don’t like when I see things that we throw away, especially plastic, end up in our oceans and rivers and trees. Yuck.”
Hansen remains active — he is scheduled to be the guest speaker this summer at Bowling Green State University’s Camp Millionaire’s Festival and other events across the state. The Toledo Zoo has asked him to participate in Party for the Planet, an event that focuses on environmental issues and recycling.
In addition, plans are to have EcoErek, Inc. become registered as a non-profit corporation by this summer.
Also honored at the ceremomy was Eastern YMCA volunteer John Eisenhart, who was named Person of the Year. Last year’s person of the year, Tim Stapleton, who was honored for putting on a Santa Claus outfit and reaching out to children for 52 years, presented Eisenhart with his award.
Eisenhart has volunteered 30 hours a week in the Eastern YMCA’s maintenance department for the past nine years. He is involved in scholarship fundraising, bringing as much as $30,000 for families who cannot afford YMCA membership.
“He is an ambassador of all the good things in Oregon,” Stapleton said. “He knows everyone and he helps everyone and links up organizations with other organizations. He is the epitome of hard work and a golden heart.”
Retired from the Sunoco refinery, Eisenhart said, “I’ve been fortunate in my life to work for a good company and have the resources to do these things. I’m glad I can give back to the community.”
In addition, two local businesses were honored for 100 years of service — Otterbein-Portage Valley Retirement Community, Pemberville, and Kimball Well Drilling, Genoa.
Otterbein, in association with the United Methodist Church, first began providing senior living services in 1912. Since then, the statewide system has served one-quarter of a million seniors.
Kimball Well Drilling was established in 1908 by Frank Kimball, who passed it down to his son, Edward Kimball, who passed it down to his son Paul Kimball, and then to Curt Kimball, who runs the operation today. Curt accepted the award alongside his daughter Aubrey.
Aubrey said the company’s first drilling rig was attached to a steam engine pulled by a team of horses, and it took three days to complete one well. She says now it takes one day.