Lee senior Garrett Wheeler held a Dumpster Drive on Lee’s campus in effort to eliminate waste while serving Goodwill, a nonprofit known around the globe.
Mr. Wheeler, a senior biology (pre-med) major with a Spanish minor, says he has lived near campus since before he was a student and knew that many usable items were being tossed in the dumpsters at the end of each semester.
“About five years ago, my family and I salvaged several things from the dumpsters we knew others could use,” said Mr. Wheeler. “Each year, we would dig a little bit deeper, expanding our search to other dumpsters on campus, finding more and more valuable merchandise from clothes and shoes to calculators and microwaves.
One year, I even found a Kindle Fire.”
What began as discovering a few useful items for family and friends turned into a service for those in need.
“In May 2021, I ended up with five pickup truck loads for the Goodwill and knew there was more to be found,” said Mr. Wheeler. “So, I decided to ask Goodwill if they could bring one of their semi trucks to campus this year.”
Mr. Wheeler got in touch with Goodwill Industries in Chattanooga, secured two semis instead of one, worked with several offices at Lee to help spread the word, and enlisted the help of some friends to make sure nothing “good” was left in the dorms or dumpsters.
“Garrett and his peers went above and beyond to organize a purposeful initiative that saw and met a need,” said Alex Staup, director of student engagement at Lee. “We are so proud of their care and creativity in organizing the Dumpster Drive. Our goal is to support our students in taking part of opportunities to serve our campus and the surrounding community in any way that we can.”
From April 28-May 5, while students were finishing their semester and packing up to go home, Wheeler and his friends were keeping the trucks organized and directing everyone their way with unwanted belongings.
“It was great to witness so many students bringing their stuff to the trucks, knowing it was going for a good cause,” said Mr. Wheeler. “There were refrigerators, utensils, tables, fans, and couches, along with clothes and shoes and so much more.”
In addition to coordinating the Dumpster Drive, Mr. Wheeler is president of Lee’s Film Society, coach for Lee’s improv team Shenanigans, and service coordinator for Alpha Epsilon Delta Honors Society.
Mr. Wheeler, who will graduate in May 2023, has high hopes that the drive will continue to grow. “I believe we can fill three semis next year!” said Mr. Wheeler.
Goodwill Industries provides job training, employment placement services, and other community-based programs for people who have barriers to their employment. The nonprofit is funded by a network of 3,200+ retail thrift stores.
For more information about Goodwill or to make a contribution, visit https://goodwillchatt.org