PALMER — The Valley Center for Recycling Solutions is under new guidance. Longtime VCRS volunteer, board member and past board president Steve Brown has taken over as Executive Director for Mollie Boyer.
“In my mind, I’m not replacing Mollie in any way. I’m taking the foundation that she has laid and trying to build on it,” Brown said.
After starting the operation 22 years and four locations ago, the Valley Center for Recycling Services is thriving at their location on Mat-Su Borough Central Landfill property. Now, to accommodate Valley residents disposing of waste and recyclables, VCRS will be changing their hours to mimic those across the street at the landfill. The VCRS will now be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesdays through Fridays.
As Brown takes over the day-to-day operations of VCRS, which serves as the recycling hub for 100,000 Valley residents and beyond, he is making subtle tweaks in hopes to increase the amount of recyclable material brought to VCRS. Brown and his wife were married 15 years ago by Boyer, who stepped down due to health concerns. Brown was named interim director by the board of directors and eventually took over as the full time executive director. Brown worked for Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union before most recently taking nursing classes at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Recently, Brown and his wife took a hike with Boyer who mentioned she was looking to retire, and the opportunity presented itself to Brown.
“My goal is to figure out the best way to capture Mollie’s legacy,” said Brown.
The changes that Brown is making are subtle, but substantial. Brown said he has been keeping a watchful eye in the drive through, enforcing often ignored safety rules of keeping children in vehicles. Brown also hopes to tackle the large amount of deferred maintenance required on VCRS equipment and vehicles.
One area Brown is picking up where Boyer left off is the ‘sustain campaign.’ Brown hopes to secure a $1,000,000 endowment for VCRS, and is well on the way to putting a dent in that goal. While VCRS receives large donations from the Mat-Su Borough to keep waste out of the landfill, Brown hopes to increase the amount of recycled materials dropped off at VCRS. Currently, VCRS collects two percent of the waste that would go into the landfill. Brown hopes to increase that number to 25 percent.
“Mollie left us with a huge volunteer base. We have passionate volunteers, over 400 volunteers a year. We’ve got a wide cross section of the community who come out here,” Brown said.
With just eight full-time staff, Brown relies on an army of volunteers to help keep VCRS running. VCRS accepts volunteer work from those completing community work services, seniors, and volunteers with special needs. VCRS has three seniors working with Mature Alaskans Seeking Skills Training (MAAST). High school students also volunteer at VCRS, cleaning and sorting material. As China has stopped importing mixed papers from the United States, prices for recycled materials are at an all-time low. Brown says that the particularity at VCRS in sorting the recycled materials keeps the quality of the final product high.
“People wonder why we are like uber sorters and it’s because we get top tier pricing by doing that,” Brown said.
VCRS held a fundraiser at Settler’s Bay to help support their efforts as prices of exported recycled goods drop. VCRS is also hosting a fundraiser with teh Mat-Su Symphony Orchestra for Veterans Day. Brown said that posting volunteers in the entry shed has helped remind recyclers to donate as they drop off.
“People should support us is because we are touching so many different parts of the community and doing good in the process,” Brown said.