Guest Blog – Gregg Keesling of RecycleForce

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Matthew 24:20

While RecycleForce and our supporting organization Keys2Work are not religiously affiliated, these words ring true for the hundreds of workers we train and employ, all of whom are returning from the prison system. During the current pandemic, our work has not changed but the perception of our work and most importantly of our workers has changed. We welcome this shifting perspective.

 No one can be entirely safe from this virus but our teams at RecycleForce and Keys2Work are better prepared than the average business. Our trainings for staff include OSHA and HAZWOPER 40 (HAZ40). HAZ40 is a 40-hour course to learn how to work around hazardous chemicals that we work within our recycling plant. However, there is a tremendous amount of cross over between hazardous chemicals like mercury and lead with a virus.  Because of this, everyone in our plant knows about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and how to be safe.

Deemed an essential business, our team is providing needed services to promote the health and safety of our community.  As a recycling plant, we are helping to safely recycle electronics. There are many people who are cleaning out their garages or basements—and we help divert electronic waste from the landfill through our electronic recycling program. Additionally, we are storing supplies for the City of Indianapolis Office of Public Health and Safety (OPHS) to be delivered to the homeless providers locally.  Each morning OPHS lets us know which camps might need water or gloves and we deliver them.  We are also on call 24 hours to accept and unload semi-trucks that may arrive with other supplies.

The Department of Public Works also employs our teams to help pick up trash and right now, the need for trash pick-up is significant. We also have the opportunity to support the critical functions of some of our community partners. Last week, we had the opportunity to help Gleaners Food Bank in distributing 50,000 pounds of food to those who needed it. We had 500 cars come through to pick up much-needed food.

As one of our Board Members aptly said, “To think about a population we call ex-offenders and homeless panhandlers using their hands to make sure the citizens of Indianapolis have food to support their home and family needs even when their own needs are often forgotten makes this act amazing.”

We are proud to remain open for business and pleased to continue to pay wages to our workforce. For our workforce, the need to work is great. The vast majority of our employees have recently been released from prison and will not be eligible for the $1200 stimulus checks since they did not file taxes in 2018 or 2019 while incarcerated.  Now that they are home they need to work as much if not more so than all of us.

To learn more about Gregg Keesling and RecycleForce, listen to Episode 50.