GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A nonprofit in Grand Rapids that offers recyclable materials for educational and fun projects could be closing, unless it finds new owners and a space to keep thousands of supplies.
“I’m old. I want it to continue,” Betsey Hamm said.
Hamm is the owner and founder of Learning From Scratch, a nonprofit that collects discarded materials donated by area businesses and provides them to community groups, schools and individuals at little to no cost.
They have helped with Art Prize programs, camp crafts and other projects in the community. They have even shipped things all over the state and country.
The nonprofit survives off of donations, bringing in about $1,000 per month, according to Hamm. When she started the business it was never about the money, it was just a gift to the community.
“It’s awesome to be able to come in here. I love to fill in the bag. It’s a great value to be able to find all those things rather than going to like a Hobby Lobby or another store and buying them,” customer Janna Smith said.
Hamm is also a former special education teacher. She retired when she was 48 years old after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
For the last nearly 25 years, Hamm has helped hundreds of people turn those supplies into a wonderful work of art through her nonprofit.
“I love what I do. I wake up and come here and it’s wonderful,” she said.
Hamm’s business is located inside Comprenew on 28th Street, a recycling center that also provides IT support and electronics repair.
Hamm and her assistant Eric Stacey recently learned from their landlord that they have to move out.
A specific timeline wasn’t specified but they both want to save everything they have instead of throwing it away.
“We need some help,” Hamm said.
There’s a basement filled with materials that haven’t even been put on the shelves. They’re already moving things out but haven’t found another place to go.
“We’ve got three mini warehouse storage spaces, we’ve got two semi trailers. We’ve got a school bus. We’ve been using a friends barn. We have some storage barns in our yards,” Stacey said.
“It’s even in my car,” Hamm added.
Hamm, 75, has aphasia and scoliosis. Stacey helps as much as he can but he’s getting older. They both say operating the nonprofit is a heavy burden but it’s worth their time and energy until they can get more help.
“We would like to see this mission continue because we think it’s a great resource for the community,” Stacey said. “We are looking for somebody that will continue it after we aren’t able to do it. Somebody that has the resources and manpower and vision to continue what we’ve been doing.”
Currently the pair is moving everything from the store in Grand Rapids to Lowell, which is where they live.
They’re looking for anyone who may have space for them to operate the business in Grand Rapids and keep their materials all in one place.
If you would like to help contact Stacey at 616.890.1085.