By Bob Balgemann


LOVES PARK – Some hearing the name, Keep Northern Illinois Beautifu (KNIB), likely think it’s an organization that keeps roadsides free of trash and other debris.

Well, it does, but that’s a small part of its mission.

This multi-faceted organization has been around since 1988 and in that time has been involved with a clothing drives, collecting and shredding Christmas trees, environmental education, metals and electronic recycling and medication disposal. And, of course, the Great American Cleanup.

In addition, KNIB has recycling centers at 4665 Hydraulic Dr. in Rockford and at 13125 N. Second St. in Roscoe.

Lori Gummow, executive director, has made plenty of appearances in the area to drum up support for the mission by explaining what it does to benefit so many people.

Aug. 3, she spoke to more than 100 members of the Harlemites, graduates of Harlem High School who themselves are involved in a number of events that benefit the community.

KNIB is a private, non-governmental, 501C3 organization committed to educating and involving individuals in productive solutions that care for the local, sensitive environment.

It works with businesses, schools, neighborhood groups and local governments to enhance neighborhoods and to reduce, reuse and recycle resources for future generations.

How about recycling crayons. Yes, KNIB does that. It collects used crayons from local schools between June 1-15 each year

“Millions of crayons are worn out every year because kids love coloring in their books, on the walls, the floor, wherever they can find to be artful,” Gummow said. “So, what happens to all the used up crayons? Should they wind up buried in the local landfill?”

Not if KNIB has anything to say about it.

Once the crayons have been collected, KNIB volunteers strip the paper from each crayon and sort them by color. Other volunteers then melt the stubs and recast them in different shapes, such as cars, dinosaurs, flowers and more.

When a new school year begins, the recast, fully usable crayons are distributed to children at the lower grade levels by the thousands, when KNIB does programs in the classrooms.

“These old, used-up crayons reinforce the message that children, too, can be environmentally helpful,” Gummow said.

Clothing drives

The organization has several clothing drives each year, with the next one coming up from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 10 at all Schnucks Markets.

Locally, the grocery store is at the corner of Alpine and Harlem Roads. Clothing also is collected at the two aforementioned KNIB recycling centers and at the Belvidere Township building, 8200 Fairgrounds Road in Belvidere.

This is actually more than a clothing drive, with acceptable items being in any condition, wearable or not. The list includes men’s women’s and children’s apparel, coats, hats, shoes, pants, shirts, blouses, dresses, backpacks, towels, curtains, bathmats, stuffed toys, bedding and pillows and tag stock and unusable items.

Collected items are shipped immediately to a supplier in Milwaukee, who processes them within 30 days of receipt. Clothing is sent to areas in the United States as well as Africa, Asia, Central and South America.

Since 1999, KNIB has collected more than 3.24 million pounds of clothing. More than 4,500 households participated in the three drives held so far this year.

Other 2014 outcomes

It took two pages to include all of the activities KNIB was involved in during the past year. Here are some of them, with a few numbers that may amaze:

* In April, 1,354 volunteers removed the winter’s accumulation of litter as part of the national Great American Cleanup effort. They cleaned 338 miles of municipal streets and highways, with nearly 41 tons of litter being removed.

Gummow said the presence of litter reduces property values by 7-10 percent and adds to blight and crime.

* More than 25,000 Christmas trees were delivered to the KNIB collection sites for shredding. That reduced the load on municipal and county landfills, while providing free mulch to anyone who needed it.

* The two recycling centers is beneficial to many residents of condominiums and apartments, as well as residents of unincorporated areas, who do not have curbside recycling.

The long-standing recycling center in Roscoe, operated by volunteers, served 6,000 residents last year and recycled an average of 22 tons of goods every month. The Rockford center on Hydraulic Drive opened in September 2014.

* During the three multi-faceted clothing drives, KNIB collected 163,580 pounds of clothing, linens and soft goods, with 3,998 area residents participating.

* Close to 1,500 people recycled 181,500 pounds of scrap metals, appliances, tools and electronics in 2014. All items were recycled, freeing up local landfill space.

* The medication collection drive allowed 1,367 area residents to properly dispose of their unwanted medications, whether expired or unexpired. In all, 3,102 pounds of medications were collected, protecting more than 3 billion gallons of groundwater from pharmaceuticals.

KNIB’s program was recognized by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “a model for other programs to follow.”Harlemites-2

Bob Balgemann photo

Lori Gummow (center), executive director of Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful, with Harlemites Paul Brown and Delores Hall during the Aug. 3 breakfast meeting of the organization of Harlem High School graduates.

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