Recycling ‘a way of life’ for Mountain View transplant

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published April 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 12, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Nell Harrelson finds passion in recycling, such as the clothes with which she is shown. Harrelson said recycling clothes is a way for her to give back to the community.

— We’ve all heard the saying: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That may be true for Nell Harrelson of Mountain View, coordinator of the Stone County Recycling Center.

Harrelson grew up in Biscoe, but she didn’t get to Mountain View until 1993, after vacationing in the area and falling in love with it.

“The people were so friendly, and I loved everything about [the town] and still do,” Harrelson said.

Harrelson graduated from DeValls Bluff High School and lived in Memphis, Tenn., for 35 years, before discovering Mountain View.

The 75-year-old has been in the working world since she graduated from high school.

She worked for a publishing company, a distribution company and a rubber-stamp company in Memphis until retiring.

“I moved here in 1993, and a lady at my son’s school was trying to get a recycling [program] started there,” Harrelson said.

One of Harrelson’s children was enrolled in what was then the Rural Special School District, now part of the Mountain View School District.

She played a part in starting a recycling program at the school and made the connections she needed to get a job at the recycling center.

“I wanted to work,” Harrelson said. “I loved the challenge of getting [the program] started.”

Harrelson said the Stone County Recycling Center opened its doors in 1992 with a grant from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

She was an Americorps Vista Volunteer with the business before becoming a full-time employee. She worked alongside Bill Riffle, who was the coordinator at the time she started volunteering, and she became a member of the Stone County Recycling Center Board.

When Harrelson started working at the recycling center in December 1997, a curbside recycling program was up and going, she said.

“We already had a cardboard and paper route for businesses,” Harrelson said.

She became the center’s coordinator in 2002.

As coordinator, Harrelson oversees the operation of the center, including the hiring of new employees.

“We have such a good crew here, I don’t have to do much anymore,” Harrelson said.

Residents of the Stone County area can recycle aluminum, paper, plastic, glass, cardboard and clothes at the center.

Not only is recycling Harrelson’s way of life, she said she finds passion in recycling.

“It keeps it out of the landfill, and landfill space is scarce these days,” Harrelson said. “I’ve recycled all my life and just didn’t realize it.”

Harrelson came from a family with five siblings and said she always got clothes that her sisters couldn’t wear anymore.

Recycling clothes also has been a way for Harrelson to give back to the community, she said.

“This is an economically depressed area,” she said.

The center receives donations of clothing from Dorcas House in Little Rock.

Harrelson said Dorcas House takes clothing donations from community members and allows low-income families to choose items.

The unused clothes are given to the recycling center.

After the clothing is sorted, Harrelson said the fabrics that are salvaged are turned into rags.

“We’ve shipped 1 million pounds [of recyclables] a year since 2002,” Harrelson said.

Harrelson said she has gotten to know many community members through her job at the center. She’s also active in First Baptist Church in Mountain View.

She said she has worked with the church’s “Celebrate Recovery” classes for about three years and teaches the ladies class on Friday nights.

“We help people with problems like addiction,” Harrelson said.

Harrelson said she meets people at the recycling center who volunteer to get

court-mandated hours.

“I realized that we really have a need for [Celebrate

Recovery],” Harrelson said.

She said her church activities and job don’t leave much free time, but she doesn’t know what she’d do with it, anyway.

That’s one reason why she hasn’t retired.

“I think it’s important work, and I enjoy it,” Harrelson said.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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