Innovator Spotlight: Vanessa and Taylor of The Welman Project

The Welman Project

Have you ever wondered what a fabric store does with all their fabric scraps? Or maybe that clothing manufacturer that has boxes and boxes of last season’s clothing line that they aren’t able to sell? How about a restaurant that changes their logo and yet they have boxes of to-go cups with the old logo and they’re not sure what to do with all of it? Well Vanessa and Taylor, founders of the non-profit, The Welman Project, have found a fantastic use for surplus items and supplies with the goal of using them to ‘fill a classroom, not a landfill.’

The Welman Project repurposes surplus materials from local companies for creative reuse in school classrooms, which not only help local students, but also help keepThe Welman Project items from being dumped in our landfills. I must say, these two innovative minds are pretty creative with some of the items that have been donated to the cause.

“We received 50 pallets of graduation robes, tassels and caps, not 50 boxes, 50 pallets. There was an elementary school that wanted to do more stuff with their choir but they didn’t have the funds to get matching robes, which was preventing them from really getting out in the community and participating in competitions. So, we were able to outfit them in graduation robes and you would have never known they were graduation robes. They looked like choir robes. That was pretty awesome.”

The Welman Project is open to teachers and employees of nonprofits to come and ‘shop’, completely free, in the store of repurposed items. You may find yourself walking in the store looking for something specific, but that exact item may not be available. Leave it to the Wellies to open your mind to an alternate way of getting what you need from their repurposed supply on hand.

“We’re not just exchanging materials, we’re also exchanging ideas. Our favorite thing is when a teacher comes in and says; I need a hundred brand new composition books. Well, we don’t necessarily have that day-to-day, but what’s the project? Oh, you guys are working on poetry? Cool. Let me show you to the awesome vintage paper section and then let me show you how to make a jump journal.”

Like the graduation robes, sometimes there are donations of an overabundance of the same item and it is always great when the item donated can be used for so many The Welman Projectdifferent things for all grade levels. Those types of items always go quickly!

“One time we got two 18 wheelers full of tomato bowls. These were biodegradable bowls from Blue Apron that they discontinued. Luckily, we ended up with a lot of it and those went like hotcakes. There were so many ways they could be used, and a kindergartener and a senior in high school could use that same material for different applications, which was cool.”

Teachers are always requesting items from the Welman Project and a waitlist, of sorts, is made in case those items come in. Lately, due to the pandemic and the alternate ways teachers have to teach, requests have altered as well and the Welman Project is keeping an eye out for those items that are needed.

“We’ve noticed that the requests have been a little bit different than normal lately. Monitors and technology items for teachers to be able to teach at home. Document cameras, which we have yet to come across, but we have about a hundred requests for. Also, dry erase boards. I think those items have been the biggest things. So we’re trying to communicate that to our network and our community as well as the businesses that we partnered with to try to really meet those needs.”

The founders of The Welman Project have big ideas and even bigger goals in this coming year. They want space for the community to be able to use and rent tools to build projects. A space for a kid to come purchase materials to build their science project knowing they’re also using repurposed materials. Also to continue giving materials to teachers for free and having a larger space to accommodate moreThe Welman Project teachers at a time to shop while social distancing. These are just some of their big plans for 2021.

“Our goal is to actually open up a new space in January, which sounds crazy because it is. But remember we’re the people that take in two 18 wheelers of tomato bowls. So we’re going to get there.”

If you are a company or organization and have items you would like to donate or if you’re a teacher and you would like to make an appointment to shop, you can reach the Welman Project through their website at www.TheWelmanProject.org or by calling or texting (817) 809-6389.

Listen to their podcast episode to hear about the amount of product they’ve saved from landfills, how the Welman Project got its name as well as what else these visionaries have in store for the community. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

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