Sometimes a trip to the dump is just a trip to the dump. And sometimes there’s an art project titled “Wellesley Dump Art” going on in the Give and Take area. With permission from the RDF, I got all artsy over the weekend and had great luck in getting the dump-going community to join in on my flight of fancy.
The idea behind “Wellesley Dump Art” was simple: to create still-life arrangements on-site at the RDF using exclusively items that came into the Give-and-Take area and flowers from my yard. I then photographed the completed arrangements. The next part of “Wellesley Dump Art” is to frame and exhibit some of the photos in a to-be-determined space in town. The project was part temporary installation, part performance art, and part photography shoot. It was community participation, cool tunes in the air, and a sense of fun. There were strange looks, some nervous laughter, and requests to take some of the props home (the answer: but of course!).
The next part of the project is to frame and exhibit some of the photos in a to-be-determined space in town.
Thanks, Wellesley, for not only encouraging my eccentricities, but allowing me space to indulge them. Here are some pics of what came of it all:
As evidenced by this notice-less bulletin board in Wellesley Square, we’re used to slow summers around here. Summer of 2016 broke that mold. Let’s just say the news offered more than concerts at Town Hall and the newest flavors of ice cream on scoop. Check out the Top 10 Wellesley stories of Summer 2016.
For most people, the news that Wellesley’s youth are increasingly wandering the streets, faces buried in their smartphones doesn’t seem revolutionary. However, the advent of new app sensation Pokemon GO has caused a sudden shift in the behavioral patterns of millennials in Wellesley and beyond…
A short and wicked late afternoon storm that blew through Wellesley on Tuesday, July 18 downed numerous trees, damaged homes and knocked out power in parts of town. One minute a friend and I were sitting in my family room sipping tea and commenting on the hail coming down outside (“Oh my, do you think those nasty flying ice chunks will chip the paint on the Subaru, dear?”). An hour later I stopped by that same friend’s house, not even a mile away, to survey her hard-hit home in the Cottage St. area…
Against a backdrop of racial tension across the nation this summer, Wellesley finds itself addressing allegations of racial and ethnic harassment of its own involving high school students…
The Swellesley Report learned over the summer that the Wellesley High Track and Field project‘s completion will be delayed. The $3 million effort, which was undertaken in order to widen the field so that it could be used by more athletes and help alleviate the squeeze on other fields in town, and to rebuild a track that had seen better days, will not be ready for its original grand opening date of September 24…
Lieutenant Paul Delaney says he was “in the right place at the right time and glad to help” while vacationing last week on an Eastham beach when he and a doctor performed CPR on a 40-year-old woman who had gone into cardiac arrest. Delaney also used a defibrillator, handed to him by a police officer, to revive the woman by the time a fire ambulance arrived on the scene…
Every now and then we’ve heard the rumors: there are certain volunteers at the Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility’s Reusables Area who are practically making a living by scooping up and spiriting away all the good stuff that gets dropped off before anyone else can get to it, and selling it on Craigslist, Ebay, and at flea markets. Over the summer, the hubbub ratcheted up a notch with a casual comment on a closed Facebook page: “Anyone else notice that there never seems to be anything decent at the dump’s Take-and-Leave anymore?” And the conversation and the accusations were off and running…
The Wellesley Historical Commission is lamenting one of the town’s latest and most stunning teardowns: a 1929 Tudor Revival at 1 Kenilworth Rd…
If somebody left you almost a million dollars with the caveat that it must be spent on a certain project, not socked away for a rainy day, would it take you over ten years to spend it? It might, if…
Openings and closings
OPENED: Bluemercury in Linden Square
GETTING CLOSER: Cocobeet in Wellesley Square
GETTING CLOSER: Thirst Juice at the Bel Clare
GETTING CLOSER: Caffe Nero in Wellesley Hills to open soon
GETTING CLOSER: Luxotic Nails Bar in Linden Square, which will take over a former furniture store space.
ON THE BLOCK: Chico’s Wellesley Square space is available and Dorset Tea (both are still open for business)
OPENING IN ITS PLACE: Wellesley wonders, how do you say brow threading in French?
Every now and then we’ve heard the rumors: there are certain volunteers at the Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility’s Reusables Area who are practically making a living by scooping up and spiriting away all the good stuff that gets dropped off before anyone else can get to it, and selling it on Craigslist, Ebay, and at flea markets. Recently, the hubbub has ratcheted up a notch with a casual comment on a closed Facebook page: “Anyone else notice that there never seems to be anything decent at the dump’s Take-and-Leave anymore?” And the conversation and the accusations were off and running.
One Swellesley reader wrote to us recently that he has stopped bringing stuff to the Take & Leave area because he doesn’t think things he was bringing were getting to people who really needed it. Simmering tensions have bubbled to the point where some residents have created a Facebook group of their own aimed at setting up their own Reusables Area of sorts for people fed up with the status quo. That this new FB group, that would allow members to gain a modicum of control over where their goodies go, had to be hidden almost as soon as it went live is a commentary about how badly people want Wellesley’s cast-offs. The organizer told us “Yes, we created a group but we are finding that people who have no connection to Wellesley are trying to join. So we have hidden the group for now until we have a chance to vet all the requests.”
It isn’t pretty, is it? The Swellesley Report has been contacted numerous times in recent weeks with stories about long-running feuds, and entitlement, of treasures and greed, and of a growing climate of frustration that at times pits some residents against certain volunteers who, it is said, make a living off of the items dropped off.
About this possibility, one of the calmer FB commenters said, “That upsets me, because if I wanted to sell something I’d do it myself… People assume their items are being donated / given a good home, not sold!”
Well, you know what they say about making assumptions. The town’s policy about such commerce is clear, and that policy is one of hands-off. In a nutshell, all volunteers must undergo training, which lays out the rules of the dump, and sign a letter of agreement, as well as a waiver. The rules clearly state that “Shopping on duty is not allowed. A volunteer who is on duty and wearing their safety vest is not allowed to shop. Volunteers are allowed to shop before and after their shift with the same rights as other Wellesley residents.”
…with the same rights as other Wellesley residents.
What this means is that although your average Wellesley resident who is dropping off something as useless as a jigsaw puzzle with only one piece missing or as generous as the two beautiful Brown Jordan outdoor chairs I picked up last summer may assume that the notion of filthy lucre passing hands doesn’t enter into the Reusables Area, they would be wrong. Dump volunteers, some there for altruistic reasons, some there for the social aspect, many there for the gleanings, do not operate under more restrictive rules than the non-volunteer Wellesley residents.
Put simply, anytime I want I can take those two Brown Jordan chairs currently gracing my back yard (they each go for about $500 new, according to the company’s website), post them on eBay (where I could sell them for about $250 each), and pocket the money.
And yet, it rankles many that some dump volunteers are making tax-free cash. Superintendent Jeff Azano-Brown isn’t deaf to the complaints. “I think there needs to be a little soul searching about how that area should be at its best. If it’s true that people are making a business out of that area, yes it bothers me. The true purpose of the area is to keep items out of a landfill. That is the true spirit of the area. 95% of the effort is really productive and helpful and achieves the spirit of the area. The positive aspects of what goes on over there are so important.”
Important, and numerous. One thing residents, volunteers, and the town can agree on is that due to the Reusables Area, thousands of items are kept out of the landfill. In addition, it may not be common knowledge that what can appear to be volunteers hiding away the good stuff in their shed is in actuality an example of them setting aside items for charitable agencies and organizations. Volunteer Barbara Faubert says, “We get requests from lots of agencies and organizations, and we always help out. Nursing homes. Homeless families. Nobody knows about that. We help out two Alzheimers Centers, one in Wellesley and one in Needham. Family Promise. Individuals who are down on their luck. There are some very needy people in Wellesley. We got a request that a single mom with three young kids who are just getting out of a shelter need items, and yes, we take the items as they come in and bring them to the shed to set aside for them.”
Still, Faubert concedes, if not declares, that “This place runs on greed.”
That simmering undercurrent of greed is what makes people refer to some of the more aggressive volunteers as vultures. People complain about volunteers who try to unload their cars and of cars that are parked at the reusables area without a dump sticker (that particular complaint should subside once the dump puts the license-recognition program in place in the fall). Regulations state that all volunteers must be Wellesley residents.
Priscilla Messing, Chairperson of the Friends of Recycling group, doesn’t much see what being a Wellesley resident has to do with anything when it comes to volunteering. She doesn’t like the fact that there is profiteering involved by some, and would prefer a model of pure volunteerism to prevail, one that doesn’t run on greed or ulterior motives. Messing realizes that her ideals aren’t shared by many.
Others remember what they call the bad old days, saying “Before there were volunteers, there were fist fights over stuff, so the volunteers are earning a living, but also providing a service. Those guys often offer to help load cars and even to truck big items to people’s houses…They don’t get paid you know. I find them to be kind and helpful and if you tell them what you need they help you find it or will help you offload the most useless junk without any complaints or without embarrassing you.”
Others point out that if certain volunteers didn’t snag items and resell them, then someone else would. That’s a good point. Let’s say the volunteers were given more onerous restrictions on the items than the rest of the town’s residents. It’s not hard to imagine that they would all simply quit and hang out at the dump all day anyway, as private citizens, not sorting, not organizing, not sweeping, not fetching and carrying. Just grabbing.
I’m a regular at the dump and have heard some hilarious exchanges between volunteers and shoppers who treat them like department store personnel. Shoppers will hold up a set of curtains and ask if perhaps three more sets, with the hardware and some sheers, will be coming in soon. They’ll ask if that gas grill over there works. Seriously? If the volunteers were allowed to fire up gas grills, they’d be selling burgers out there.
I’ve also seen multiple requests answered with immediate assistance:
Can you help me carry this? (Thank you again to the volunteer who helped me do just that recently.)
Can I leave my name on this and pick it up later?
Will you help me unload my car?
And let’s not forget that you can bring anything to the dump and never get junk-shamed.
Here’s a thought. If the stuff at the dump is really as valuable as is said, perhaps it’s time for an additional town employee. Let’s call that employee the Ebay Czar. The job description: to review every item that comes into the Reusables Area, and set aside those that the Czar deems eligible to sell on Ebay or wherever. All monies would go to the Town of Wellesley’s general fund, just like the money the dump makes from selling recyclables. If the town is literally leaving as much money on those Give-and-Take tables as people claim, the Ebay Czar could handily cover his or her salary and then some. In a big way, right?
Former Superintendent Gordon Martin always had a dream that one year the dump would turn over a cool million to the general fund (it turned over $619,000 in 2015). Perhaps the Ebay Czar could help close the gap, if the treasure could be unburied and unloaded in just the right way.
In writing this, and thinking about the spirit of the Give and Take area, I was reminded of a brief exchange I had recently with current Superintendent Azano-Brown. When I asked if he ever went over to shop the Give and Take, he said he did stop by every now and then to see if he could pick something up for the RDF offices. “Just the offices?” I asked, a little surprised. “Not for home?”
“Oh, no. Not for home,” he said. “I’m not a Wellesley resident.”
Wellesley’s got three libraries plus independent book store Wellesley Books, and all are spaces frequented and much-loved by the town’s avid readers.
But there’s one more spot that is perhaps the best of them all if you’re interested, strictly from an anthropological perspective of course, in trying to discern the kind of books Wellesley people really read. That spot is the open shelves at the RDF. There, in full view and for the taking (if you’re a Wellesley resident), are books that have likely come directly out of actual Wellesley homes. Some of it is what you’d expect. But not all…
The Wellesley RDF will accept latex and oil-based alkyd paint on Saturday for recycling, no matter how ugly the color. A reminder that if you have turpentine, other solvents, or unmarked containers, save those for Household Hazardous Wast Products Collection Day, in the spring.
Also of note, it’s time to fill out the paperwork to get your shiny new dump sticker. You can download an application by clicking here. All Wellesley residents must display a new Permit Sticker on their windshield in order to use the facility. If you have any questions about the new Permit Stickers please call the RDF at 781-235-7600 x3345.