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COLUMN — Urge county to recycle with STEPS

In the face of COVID-19 uncertainty, STEPS temporarily shut down recycling operations in March. It was a tough decision but one we had to make to assure the safety of our six workers with disabilities.

Sharon Harrup

During our operational hiatus, Prince Edward County has been using an alternate recycling vendor. We understand this. The paper and plastic flow doesn’t stop, even for pandemics. We restarted operations June 1, but the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to decide at its June 9 meeting whether to end a decades-old relationship with STEPS.

We pray they will not choose to do so.

What will the loss of the partnership mean for STEPS? Simply, a lower recyclable volume would translate into a permanent loss of jobs for some of our employees with disabilities. These are jobs that mean the world to them.

Prince Edward County, the Town of Farmville, Hampden-Sydney College and others have long worked with STEPS to keep the recycling operation going while aiding our mission to “Move Lives Forward.”

STEPS has partnered with Prince Edward County for approximately 21 years. We have done our best to keep costs down for those we serve. Processing fees have not increased since 2012.

Money is always part of the equation, but there is a human element that is more challenging to quantify. Is it valuable to employ workers with disabilities? We believe so. Value comes in the smiles on their faces, the joy they get earning and spending their own money and witnessing their sense of purpose and self-fulfillment.

Plus, they are doing their part to save the environment in the community they live. They are productive, contributing members of this community. This is inclusion in its most elementary form.

We want to stress that we are part of the Farmville/Prince Edward community. Our corporate headquarters are located here. Our recycling operation is here. Our program services are centered here. We are part of you. You are part of STEPS.

If you reside in Prince Edward County, please consider reaching out to your elected representative and request that STEPS be retained as the recycling processor. 

This is quite an emotional topic for STEPS because we are passionate about the right of citizens with disabilities to work. Some of our employees with disabilities have been with STEPS for more than 30 years. 

Please, let’s keep them working.

Sharon Harrup is the president & CEO of STEPS Inc. STEPS’ corporate offices are located at 225 Industrial Park Road in Farmville. STEPS’ footprint spans an 11-county area in Virginia. For more information on any program, call (434) 315-5909.