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Scraps KC Works To Give Used Crafting Supplies And The Homeless A New Life

Scraps KC Executive Director Brenda Mott with Cracker, a homeless volunteer.
Tom Taylor
/
KCUR 89.3
Scraps KC Executive Director Brenda Mott with Cracker, a homeless volunteer.

Scraps KC is a place to let go of your unwanted materials, inspire creativity and a refuge for the homeless from the streets.

Down in Kansas City's West Bottoms, Scraps has been open for 13 months. Executive Director Brenda Mott calls it a creative reuse center. It's like a thrift store targeted at crafters.

The not-for-profit accepts donations, and then sells the materials in its store. This revenue, combined with a handful of grants, pays to keep the facility open. Much of the items for sale in the store could be categorized as craft supplies: Think fabric squares, colored pencils and assorted shapes and sizes of wood.

"There's anything and everything you'd ever want to do anything with," says Scraps shopper Peggy O'Toole.

Customers can find a wide range of donated materials for sale in the Scraps KC store.
Credit Tom Taylor / KCUR 89.3
/
KCUR 89.3
Customers can find a wide range of donated materials for sale in the Scraps KC store.

So far, the store has taken in 28 tons of donations. Now, it can be anywhere between 500 to 1,000 pounds of materials a week, according to Executive Director Brenda Mott.

This concept of recycling and finding new uses for things most would consider junk or clutter is how Mott grew up.

“If we wanted to build a fort outside, ‘cause we were always outside, we would run into somebody’s dad’s garage and pull wood out of that," says Mott. "Or, we’d be in the empty lot and find sticks. Or, mom would have some fabric at home that we would take and use as the covering for the fort.”

Scraps KC sells donated classroom supplies in an effort to help teachers find affordable materials.
Credit Tom Taylor / KCUR 89.3
/
KCUR 89.3
Scraps KC sells donated classroom supplies in an effort to help teachers find affordable materials.

Besides recycling and reuse, the nonprofit works toward two other missions: education and serving the homeless.

Scraps tries to help teachers acquire classroom supplies by stocking one whole side of the store with materials like notebooks and pencils.

Mott became familiar with creative reuse centers while she was in college in Massachusetts. Then, she became a teacher and continued shopping at them because the cost was considerably lower than buying new materials.

Additionally, the store has a "make-and-take" space where anyone can come in and for $5 make something only they can imagine. Sometimes projects get left behind, and Mott likes to display them to inspire the next batch of bright-eyed creators.

For Mott though, serving the homeless is the primary mission of Scraps KC.

"Seeing change in them, and seeing them come out of a place that is not easy, and is scary, and can sometimes be very dangerous. To see them come here in a safe place and be happy and laugh for a while, it's worth every single minute," she says.

Bold pink lights direct customers to Scraps KC in Kansas City's West Bottoms.
Credit Tom Taylor / KCUR 89.3
/
KCUR 89.3
Bold pink lights direct customers to Scraps KC in Kansas City's West Bottoms.

Scraps serves the homeless in two ways.

First, the store itself acts as a volunteer opportunity. Workers sort through donations and keep the story tidy and organized.

One homeless volunteer goes by the name Cracker.

"When I kind of slack off, and I'm getting kinda bored, and thinking about running away and maybe getting drunk or something, she'll come popping in and go, 'Look, can you go through this?' and it's like Christmas," he says.

For their time and effort, they are given a hot meal and a place to get out of the cold and off of the streets.

The second way Scraps tries to help the homeless is by going out into streets every Saturday morning. Accompanied by volunteers, Mott and her husband hand out food to the homeless. By her estimates, they've handed out over 1,000 breakfast sandwiches and countless gallons of coffee. They also give out what they call dignity and survival items like clothes and blankets.

This work has had a big impact on the lives of some of the people they've helped.

Without Brenda, you know, I would probably be dead - Scraps volunteer Cracker

Looking forward, Mott says Scraps already needs to expand. She's looking to double the size of the facility to accommodate the influx of donations. In the new space, she'd like to offer more services like a community garden. Additionally, she wants to focus on helping other communities like single mothers.

Tom Taylor is an intern on Central Standard. Reach him by e-mail at centralstandard@kcur.org.

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