Airstream plans clothing drive

JACKSON CENTER — The employees of Airstream Inc. have planned a clothing drive to benefit Special Olympics.

From July 13 to July 20, bins will be open in the Airstream parking lot, the first right turn off Airstream Drive, and in the Jackson Center Pro Hardware parking lot, 112 E. Pike St.

Area residents are encouraged to clean out their closets and chests of drawers to help the organization that helps individuals with developmental disabilities overcome barriers through sports.

Mark Wahl, Airstream senior vice president of operations, approved the drive when Bob Knecht, sales manager of Ohio Mills Corp. contacted an Airstream associate about the possibility of a drive there.

“This is a great cause and the investment in time is well worth the benefits,” he said.

Christine McKenzie, executive administrative assistant to the president and CEO and senior vice president of operations, and Tammy Spicer, administrative assistant of manufacturing and payroll at Airstream, and Meghan Serr, utility clerk of the village of Jackson Center are coordinating the collection drive. Ohio Mills will place and manage the bins.

“At Ohio Mills, we manufacture and maintain clothing donation bigs for Special Olympics in four states,” Knecht told the Sidney Daily News Thursday. “In Ohio, that generates about $177,000 per year. We’re trying to get more donations, trying to generate more revenue for Special Olympics, so we’ve been contacting industries around the state.”

Airstream, with its 500 employees, was a target because it’s a large company.

“The average bag of clothing weighs 18 to 20 pounds. If 500 people bring in 20 pounds, that’s a lot of clothing and a lot of money for Special Olympics,” Knecht said.

All kinds of textiles and shoes, belts, jewelry, hats and handbags will be accepted. People can donate clothing, towels, linens, blankets, scarves and gloves. The company will take items that are in good condition, as well as items that are stained or torn.

“Doing this drive is a great opportunity to clean out closets, it diverts millions of pounds of textiles from landfills, it creates local jobs and it generates revenue for Special Olympics of Ohio,” said McKenzie in a recent email.

According to publicity materials, 95 percent of textiles can be recycled.

“Textile recycling companies sort and grade the used clothing based on quality, condition, and type,” McKenzie said. “forty-five percent is re-used as apparel. These items are generally processed into large bales that are then sold in the U.S. to the secondhand clothing industry or are exported to emerging market nations where demand for top quality secondhand clothing is particularly high. Thirty percent becomes wiping material. These recovered textiles are cut into wiping rags or polishing cloths that are then used in commercial and industrial settings. Twenty percent is reprocessed into its basic fiber content. The fibers are then manufactured to create furniture stuffing, upholstery, home insulation, automobile sound-proofing, carpet padding, building materials and various other products. Five percent is unusable. If the textiles are wet, moldy or contaminated with solvents they are not fit for recycling, and are discarded.”

The goal is to fill at least two bins during the local drive, which would equal 3,000 pounds of clothing and other items.

“If we fill the bins before the drive is over, Ohio Mills will replace them with empty bins,” McKenzie said. The money generated by the drive will be presented to Special Olympics on behalf of Airstream.

The company plans to make the drive an annual effort if this year’s is successful.

Special Olympics provides year-round competition opportunities for the athletes at the local, area and state levels. There are approximately 75 local and area events and Special Olympics Ohio hosts seven state-wide competitions each year. In addition, every two years, Special Olympics Ohio sends a team of athletes to compete in the World Games, which alternate between winter and summer sports.

Special Olympics Ohio has approximately 200 local member organizations and more than 23,000 athletes who are in training and competition.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824; follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.