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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

In Other Words: Linda Slone Receives Outstanding Volunteer Award But That’s Just Part of the Story

Linda Slone and DJ Scully

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Linda Slone received 2020 Outstanding Extension Volunteer for Natural Resources and Environmental Management award on April 14. UK Extension Agent, DJ Scully, presented her with the award.  

DJ Scully says that, “Linda Slone is being recognized as being the Outstanding Volunteer for Natural Resources and Environmental Management for her significant contributions to increasing recycling in Fort Thomas by working with the Highlands High School students and Team Chuck to turn plastic bottle caps and other plastic lids into recycled content benches that are placed around the community. To my memory you recycled over one thousand pounds.” That equals four benches. 

But there is more to the story.  Like what is Team Chuck? Is there anything he can't do?

Two years ago I was preparing for a CAR-T transplant to treat a particularly nasty case of Diffused Large B Cell Lymphoma. Chemo had failed and I was on the list for the recently released cancer treatment. I was patient #9 in our area. Linda Slone wanted to help. She organized all of my transportation and home care with volunteers. She and my niece founded Team Chuck and she became a major force in my recovery from a deadly disease. But the support group grew beyond its initial intention. So many people wanted to help but there weren’t enough tasks. So I asked that people do something good for the community in specify ways - donate blood, donate books, or donate time, talent, or funds to an environmental cause. And this is where the story takes an interesting turn. 

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There is a company in Indiana that recycles bottle caps into park benches. They take bottle caps because standard recycling programs like Rumpke cannot take them because the tiny pieces simply gum up the machinery. The requirements are simple - collect 250 pounds of plastic and pay a couple hundred dollars and you get an eight-foot colorful recycled plastic bench in return. DJ Scully at the UK Extension office in Highland Heights sponsored a grant program to reimburse the cost making the ultimate cost of each bench $0. It was clearly an environmental and community win.  

If you don’t already know Linda Slone, then you must know that she is an unstoppable force.  She arranged for every Hoxworth center in the tri-state to collect caps. And then she arranged for high school students to collect, count, and weigh the caps. Neighbors and friends collected caps. And as word spread  she started receiving caps in the mail from around the country. People wanted to give. They wanted to participate. They wanted to be part of the program. And she was willing to take as many caps as people sent. 

Types of acceptable caps to recycle

High school students sifted through each bag to weed out the unacceptable caps and then weighed them, marked them, and stored them. So many hands were involved with all of these caps - all well before COVID-19 - all for a common cause. Then Linda and her husband, Lonnie, drove to Evansville, Indiana, made the trade, and returned with four bright blue benches. Two can be found at Highlands High School where I taught for many years, one at Saint Thomas, and one more in the Model Native Garden in Tower Park. Highlands High School students are collecting caps for benches to put in their outdoor learning center. There are plans for more. 

Ultimately, though, Linda did this as testament to the goodness in the community. DJ Scully was so impressed that he nominated her for their annual award.

Linda Slone has done so much for Fort Thomas from organizing the Independence Day Parade and musical events in the park to fundraisers for cancer patients to recently making thousands of face masks for students, neighbors, friends, and whoever needed one. She makes things happen and if there is some community event happening in town, well, she probably has a hand in it. I tell her that that it is her superpower and we are fortunate to have her. I know that I am. So this award carries quite a story with it.

So when you are out for a walk and take a break on the bright blue bench in the Native Garden or one around town then think about the story behind it. It is more than simply recycling. It’s about the love of community.   

If you are interested in acquiring a recycled bench or participating in the program, please contact Linda Slone at the Earth Day celebration on Sunday, April 25 in Tower Park for details. She will have a booth collecting caps. 

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