Brenda Mott | Founder

Join us on KC Cares Online as we interview Brenda Mott, the heart and soul behind Scraps KC. This Kansas City-based nonprofit is making waves in the community by creatively repurposing waste materials and providing meaningful opportunities for the homeless. Since its inception in 2016, Scraps KC has diverted 400 tons from landfills and has brought a new concept of homeless renewal. Brenda shares her journey, from her childhood inspirations to the establishment of Scraps KC, and how it’s making Kansas City a better place to live, work, and play. Discover how Scraps KC is transforming the unwanted into something of value, be it people or things.

visit them here: scrapskc.org


What Nonprofit Questions are Answered?

  1. What is the mission of Scraps KC? Scraps KC is a nonprofit organization focused on diverting items from landfills and giving them renewed life. They also provide opportunities for the homeless to be purposeful and contribute to the community.

  2. How does Scraps KC contribute to sustainability? Scraps KC has diverted 400 tons from landfills since its beginning in 2016. They creatively repurpose waste materials and give them a new life, contributing to a more sustainable environment.

  3. How does Scraps KC support the homeless community? Scraps KC provides opportunities for the homeless to volunteer, giving them a sense of purpose. They also assist them with their needs, such as finding housing, food stamps, and medical needs.

  4. What kind of items does Scraps KC accept for donation? Scraps KC primarily accepts craft supplies, art supplies, and textiles. They encourage people to check their website for a detailed list of items they are currently accepting.

  5. How can one volunteer or support Scraps KC? Scraps KC welcomes volunteers of all ages. Interested individuals can fill out a form on their website. They also accept donations and have a store where people can shop for repurposed items.



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(00:00) the people behind them KC cares is the intersection of the non-profit and the profit communities making Kansas City a better place to live work and play this KC care segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation www.kauffman.org I’m Ruth bomb biggest since she was a child Brenda Mott has always created things for materials others have tossed aside while her motivation back then was the magic of Art today Brenda’s efforts to reuse recycle and repurpose are the heart and soul of

(00:35) scraps KC a non-profit focused on diverting items from landfills and giving them renewed life since its beginning in 2016 scraps KC has diverted 400 tons from landfills and has brought a new concept of homeless renewal Brenda joins us to share her journey leading this colorful non-profit Brenda thanks so much for being with us thanks so much for having me Ruth and I can’t wait to hear about you are creating all kinds of things at a kitten how this transition okay I’m gonna have a non-profit and we’re gonna do this

(01:10) kind of work tell us a little bit about your journey to this point sure so I grew up with parents who were Depression era children and um also lived through World War II as young adults and were very poor and everything was reused and everything was respected it was handed down from brother to sister and so on and so forth and um so I grew up in a family that had um just reused a lot whether we needed to or not everything was mended fixed repaired found new life for in another way so um that’s how I grew up and then as a

(01:53) teacher of course I had to figure out ways to use items to support the education process without spending a lot of money and so I started shopping at my first creative reuse center about 35 years ago maybe a little more um and so that’s when I found out you know about Industrial Waste and how they could have new life and things that businesses made and probably didn’t use or didn’t need any more or kind of passed their Prime and so I found that very intriguing I’d like to find new ways to integrate those tools into my

(02:31) classroom for use and then um fast forward many many years about 10 years ago my husband and I started serving the homeless on the streets and uh one of the homeless gentlemen asked us for a job and so or something to do during the day so he could be purposeful and so we provided the space um we opened scrubs KC and um that was about six and a half almost seven years ago that we opened it and it has just been a whirlwind of fun ever since then so we and the gentleman who asked us for something to do is still with us

(03:13) um and he is not on the streets anymore but he comes in he sweeps a couple times a week and helps us sort things and so it’s wonderful to see how the progression of the homeless has also improved their lives well I liked that term homeless renewal yes what a what a great phrase to talk about you know incorporating that I want to get back to how you really started it you made it sound very easy and many in the non-profit community no it’s not always that easy but let’s talk about this concept of bringing the homeless

(03:51) into or the unhomed I know that’s kind of a change in terminology that’s being used today but you know how really you’ve been able to pull that and incorporate that in a very positive way so if you think about it the homeless are actually which is a term that they use they call themselves homeless so that’s the term that we use and they actually are some of the most creative individuals that I know um with other people’s trash you know they will create these amazing living situations for themselves that really

(04:27) um are incredibly uh interesting um they know they actually have a lot of information on they build culverts to divert water flow into their camp or they create some kind of uh kitchen space where they have rebar over the top and pots and pans hanging from it so they can use those on their campfire the way they make a portable toilet for themselves I mean they’re just so creative and inventive we actually had a gentleman here who worked with us volunteered with us for a while and he took an old car generator and he lived

(05:06) at the Missouri River put the generator into the river hook some wire up to a car battery car battery and wire up to his camp and he with the current of the water created electricity that actually put a light in his camp and a coffee pot maker that would work it’s ingenious I mean I don’t know many other people who can think of those things so you know what we see as potential in the homeless um it just takes trust and care and love to bring that out in them and we see them grow in their self-esteem and our

(05:45) vision here is to transform The Unwanted into something of value and that could be people or things and so um it’s really important to us to really spend that time creating value in their lives for them and to see that they are of value so how do you go about that how do you connect uh in a way that is respectful of the human person you’re dealing with as opposed to you know that’s somebody that you know I I don’t know I don’t want to deal with whatever sure well it’s been a long time that we’ve been out on the streets we go

(06:27) out every single Saturday and have for the last oh eight or nine years um to the same place to the same location so they know that we’re coming um and they expect us to be there and we always show up first of all that’s the first and most important thing is to show up and to show up when you say so um and then we build that trust with them I mean we spend it doesn’t sound like very long but 30 minutes every Saturday 35 maybe um at the most but you know we build that trust with them with visiting bringing out coffee bringing supplies

(07:02) that they need um and I hate to say it but my name is really well known on the streets um so you know they know um somebody will ask somebody else whose home was where can I get or how can I find and they’ll say go see brand and she’ll make you work if you need something but she will give it to you if you if you put in your time to work and so um you know it’s those kinds of things just primarily the trust building and by being down there every Saturday that’s our platform to invite them to come and

(07:39) volunteer with us and um we don’t work with a lot at one time we don’t have 15 or 20 homeless people in here we dive very deep into individuals and so although we do have several homeless that come in throughout the year usually 100 150 come in and out we really those that stay with us for long periods of time those are the ones that we see you know such growth and possibilities for them and provide them with things that they need whether it’s help finding housing or food stamps or whatever medical needs they have we help

(08:20) them navigate those systems now was this part of your mission in the beginning it was um it was actually really why we did start it um I’ve always wanted to have a creative reuse center because I love seeing what can be made out of other people’s byproducts you know and um but it was really the homeless that kind of spurred me on to start it um we were really passionate about serving on the streets and for them to ask for something to do and to be purposeful I opened scraps KC almost seven years ago and it was just me and for homeless

(09:05) guys volunteering with me you know and and they would help me paint and they would help me lift boxes and sort things and you know hang lights and all different kinds of things that they were skilled at and they were also there with me you know and that was a big deal for both of us um me being the only person in the store um it was nice to have the company and then also they enjoyed the opportunity to be able to give back because they felt that they wanted to do something for the times that they had seen us out

(09:41) on the streets but guess too there was a point of seeing value in what others didn’t see value in here you are collecting things that people decided they didn’t need anymore and perhaps people feel those that are homeless you know they don’t have value humans absolutely I’m making a big judgment and I don’t mean to do that but I think it kudos to you that’s an interesting mix and a way to work so I applaud applaud you I don’t want to get too far asunder on that but I I just thought it was such an interesting

(10:18) component of scraps KC so tell us yeah how you work where you’re at and how does this operation help in the community sure so we are located in Midtown um right off Southwest Boulevard and 31st Street um in a light industrial area we have about 13 and a half thousand square feet of space which is wonderful but it’s never enough space um it’s always wonderful new donations coming in from our community members um businesses that are primarily remote have found that they have a lot of things in their closets that are just

(10:55) sitting there and so they donate them to us and we’re able to donate them for free to teachers um and so there’s community members oh byproducts from manufacturers and off Cuts we get some really crazy unusual things and you know we have artists and homeless or artists and teachers and families and do-it-yourselfers that come in looking for some kind of treasure that they can include on whatever they’re making and so um people donate every day that we’re open and um we get about two to five thousand

(11:31) pounds a day some or a week and sometimes a day so it’s pretty amazing we brought in 4 000 pounds the other day from clearing out six floors of an office building um it was a lot of stuff but it’s all brand new primarily and we have some wonderful things that we can provide to teachers like white boards and projectors and all kinds of amazing things so um so everything’s donated within the store and then it is hand sorted and packaged and priced and then put out on the floor for anybody to come in and Shop

(12:08) we have an amazing amount of volunteer energy here we have 65 recurring volunteers every single month and we get about 300 visits a month from volunteers so whether it’s a large group coming in or whether it is you know mom a child and a grandparents um we love generational volunteering all those kinds of things help us move these things faster from the diversion point to actually getting them on the floor and into other people’s hands how do you bring in your volunteers by that in recruitment is there something

(12:51) you look for in your volunteers and then I’d love for you to tell us how people who are interested can volunteer sure we always love new volunteers so we take children as young as three years old to be volunteers we believe that it’s really important for children to learn to give back at an early age that their Community is important and that there are people who have needs and so we want them to learn how to be a good volunteer and really that starts with coming in as a family and volunteering together

(13:23) so um and then you can be as old as you want to be young at heart but as old as you want to be to volunteer and really um most of our volunteers have come through us either by shopping here or by Word of Mouth and that’s a really special thing for us that people value US enough that they want to send their friends here to volunteer and we have you know people who just measure and roll fabric we got 50 000 pounds of um textile materials last year and all they do is measure roll fabric get it out on the floor for us so people can

(13:59) use it um we have people who just kind of sort through stuff and make sure that it’s in the right category that we house it in people who price we have um you know students finishing volunteer service hours or college students if they’re in a special program that they need hours so we have a variety of people that come in it’s super easy to volunteer we have a form right there on our website under volunteers and you just fill it out and we have a wonderful volunteer coordinator named me make and she’ll

(14:34) come and give you a call or email you and let you know when a good time to come in and volunteer is and that’s scrapskc.org yes that is correct so there’s your commercial everybody now you know where to go if you want to volunteer if you want to donate I’m sure so you had mentioned earlier I thought that teachers can come in and they get supplies for free yes they do so in the last six years we actually have done a summer program where we ask schools to donate their unwanted supplies there are so many

(15:08) supplies that go in the trash honestly that have never been used um and we asked the schools to collect them and then bring them to us and then we have volunteers who come all summer long and clean and repurpose those and we’d give them for free to teachers in July for two days in July well we are piloting a new program this year and we’re super excited about that our program is going to serve teachers year round and so great yes and so we already have approximately 25 000 pounds of supplies that are ready to go and we

(15:43) haven’t even received the school supplies that are unwanted so we’re looking forward to getting about another 20 000 pounds of those and we will have volunteers cleaning and repurposing them all summer long and then in July we will open our new program up at this point we are able to serve approximately 150 teachers for the year and then um we will be going out and talking to corporations about helping us fund this and sponsor this for teachers so that we can actually continue this year after year where teachers can get those

(16:20) supplies that they need all year rather than just at the beginning of the year we’re talking to Brenda Mach she is founder and executive director of scraps KC I mean I years ago when I was you know student teaching I remember there’s always been a scramble I think for school supplies so what a wonderful resource in the community and I hope there are corporations listening so more teachers will get that opportunity can you share with us though how the store works for just anybody else who wants to come in absolutely well sometimes uh

(16:54) some of our artists call it the playground um because they walk in the door and really it’s just an open warehouse space and it’s just filled with a variety of items anything from arts and crafts supplies textiles a few school and office supplies and then miscellaneous supplies and so we have people who will come in and spend a few minutes because they know exactly what they want where it’s located and they’ll go pick it out but we have others who come weekly and we’ll spend a couple hours in there

(17:25) um just kind of perusing everything and finding what they need so it’s very simple um just to come in we have a wonderful staff who’s ready to greet you and help you in any way that’s needed we have a donation space within our warehouse we also have an education space which is right near the front door and it’s a wonderful opportunity for your kids to play and learn about the environment while they’re in there playing we also have our Plastics recycling in that area where we take Chateau milkweeds dis

(18:02) assembled uh markers that we actually shred up and make new things out of so we make bowls and we make letter key rings and we make weaving looms and paint palettes and all different kinds of things out of recycled Plastics and then we also have a brand new machine called a Felton machine and that actually takes scraps of fabric and puts them back together to create a new piece of fabric which is textiles are one of the greatest landfillers at this point due to fast fashion and so we’re trying to find alternative ways to educate people about

(18:39) that issue and demonstrate ways that this fabric can be put back together and created new piece of fabric that’s more sustainable because it’s scraps that we’ve already had around so it’s a really exciting machine we do have it for rent we have classes for it so it’s a wonderful opportunity for people not only to just learn about the environment and the problems that we have in it but also learn new ways that they can reuse things and also see how Machinery is engaged in the process of keeping our Earth more

(19:17) sustainable now can I just come and Shop for things and my question then too is how do you price sure because you’re taking quote you stuff or repurpose stuff we should say so it’s basically a thrift store model um is what it is anybody is welcome to shop and we like I said before have so many different kinds of people that come in and it’s wonderful all different ages um and then the way that it’s priced is it either has a price on it um or it is priced by weight or it is priced by filling a bag so for instance

(19:58) we have seashells and that is 10 cents an ounce for however many seashells you want to get and then we have scraps of quilting fabric and that’s you can fill a bag for four dollars of quilting fabric so you know different ways depending upon what the items are but more often than not it has a price tag on it now do you want stuff just from my house I mean what are the kinds of things you want donated I you know I want to make sure the audience is clear I don’t want somebody to show up with a dump truck of

(20:32) stuff maybe you can’t use well we are very clear on our website about what we can and cannot take um we have recognized over the years that we need to keep things moving it can’t sound the floor too long because we have so much coming in every single week so um first is checking the website to see what we’re accepting and what we’re not accepting and that changes quarterly um and then you can bring things from your home we don’t take just from manufacturers or businesses people have lots of craft supplies at Home the

(21:05) things we do take regularly would be craft supplies art supplies and textiles those are our primary um items of interest to our our customers I like that items of Interest that’s a nice way of saying we don’t want just your junk junk we have that stuff that could we could really use I I do we did take a truckload of paper clips we had four Gaylords and a gaylord is a four by four by four foot box um and we took four of those from a federal government agency that I’m not allowed to say who it is and they had

(21:46) collected 20 years worth of paper clips and it was for Gaylord’s worth of paper clips and about six months ago we finally got rid of them all we had them for about three years but those are the kinds of things that shouldn’t go in the landfill they should be used and they were perfectly fine now we found a penny or two and some rubber bands and other goodies inside they’re like jelly packets but um it was it was a wonderful donation that was really useful to a lot of people you’re up and running now

(22:20) six seven years I mean you’re really into this you are established what are what keeps you up at night in running a non-profit oh everything uh I’m sure that’s what most most non-profit people would say um and no you know what really keeps us up at night is taking care of the homeless that we serve um we have a lot of issues especially lately um housing um lack of housing um medical problems um we have several getting different types of medical procedures done um that we have to take them to the appointments

(23:01) um to the surgeries to you know making sure that they don’t eat beforehand making sure that we’re in constant contact while they’re recovering um at their home and making sure they’re taking their medicine appropriately and these are these are bigger issues you know yes our world and our environment is really important but these are people who are here right now that we also care a lot about and we want to make sure that they’re feeling safe and cared for and that they’re getting their needs met

(23:32) that will keep them safe and healthy so your model to to quote stay in business is a mixture of what in terms of financial support um our store is a primary source of income for us um we do have a few grants um that we’ve applied for and have received over the years and then obviously we will be looking for significant donations for our school supply um pilot program and so you know so far we’ve been really fortunate the community has embraced us not only with donations but with support and what we do and supporting us by

(24:15) coming and shopping here um so that has been tremendous but you know like every non-profit you know finances are always important um we want to make sure that we hire quality people to work here who can speak the many languages that we need to speak whether it’s love or grief or um you know the environment whatever it is we often get people bringing in their mother’s sewing materials and Mom’s either passed away or moved to a nursing home or assisted living and our staff’s purpose is to be there to listen to

(24:54) those stories so we want to make sure that we have a staff that is has a heart and a passion for other people as well and so you know you can’t do that if you don’t have the finances to go along with it so I mean it’s just continually working to Build a Better Community create this as a safe space for all members of our community to be a part of I really like how you used when you started to say different languages I thought oh Spanish Portuguese Somali and you didn’t you talked about emotional

(25:26) language which I just think is really cool I don’t know that maybe a lot of people do think that way I that was just eye-opening for me so thank you for sharing it that way maybe more more of us should think that way right right right well it was a it was a story we often heard from my grandfather who is an immigrant and had a small store and he would actually speak the foreign languages and I never understood of the people who would come in and I never quite understood it until we opened this and our languages are always

(25:59) something that meets the needs of our people where they are oh that’s wonderful all right I I know we’re getting near our comfort the end of our conversation but I have to ask you’re this creative crafty person how do you run things day by day you have all this stuff all around you and not sit down and want to make something well I don’t anymore because I’m sure most people walk in here and say oh this looks like my craft room and it did it does look like what my craft room used to be but when I live with it every day

(26:30) I have wonderful staff members who now are much craftier and more creative than I am but it’s a real joy for me to be able to go around and visit with our customers and ask how they’re going to use the items and to talk with the children and give them more creative ideas rather than you bought a trophy to set on your shelf well did you know you can use tools to take that trophy apart and nail polish to paint it in your favorite team’s colors so just giving those ideas brings me such Joy that’s wonderful well I’m glad you don’t

(27:04) get too stuck there but you do offer classes we do offer classes primarily for adults we do have some parent in Me classes or caregiver and Me classes and we do obviously a lot of felt Loom but we also do invisible sewing so people can learn new stitching we do weaving we also have a lot of professional development for teachers so we’re looking for those schools to come and visit our educational experiences and see what we can offer teachers at their District levels well kudos to you and scraps KC what a

(27:41) wonderful way to just repurpose and and help and support people’s creativity keep things out of landfills and help human beings what could be better than that Brenda thank you so much we’re so glad you created this well thank you thanks for having me on the show you bet thank you for joining us for KC cares Kansas City’s nonprofit voice produced by charitable Communications this KC care segment was brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation www.kauffman.

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