Partnership with PRI gives greater meaning to recycling


Celia Smithmier

A recycler does her work in the area between the cafeteria and the loading dock. The work done by these individuals is crucial to the operations of the school.

They can be found carting dishes in the cafeteria, collecting paper from classroom recycling bins throughout the school, or hanging out in their nook between the cafeteria and loading dock, removing the lids from each individual Gatorade bottle disposed of at lunchtime. Led by Kate Thersleff, these workers come from Partnership Resources Incorporated (PRI), a group that helps adults with disabilities work to lead independent lives.

PRI teams up with local businesses, including Target and other organizations to coordinate jobs for people with high to low functioning disabilities. Through these different businesses and organizations, PRI’s clients learn basic life skills. For example, Steve, a recycler recognizable by his red Power Rangers sweatshirt, has been working on learning numbers through practicing using the microwave in the cafeteria.

To PRI, community integration is also important, and clients have the option of doing volunteer work, taking part in various outings, and, last fall, some even participated in the PRI production of Annie, hosted here at BSM.

“Annie made dreams come true,” said Thersleff, grateful that the Hamburge Theater was available for PRI’s use.

PRI has been involved in the BSM community for many years. “We’ve been at BSM since 2004 or 2005,” said Thersleff, who, herself, has only been at BSM for a couple years. The group, which consists of six recyclers and three dishwashers, was hired and coordinated by Anne Moen and Lynn Lynch with its members considered actual employees of Benilde-St. Margaret’s.

On a typical day, the BSM cafeteria requires two dishwashers. Busier lunches, including student favorite chicken fried steak, require all three PRI dishwashers on hand. Of course, the dishwashers help wash the dishes, but they also sweep, mop, and do other simple cleaning tasks along with carting dishes from the cafeteria to the kitchen.

The recyclers love to talk and know their jobs!

— Kate Thersleff

Starting at around 11 a.m. each day, the recycling staff can be found collecting paper and bottles from classroom recycling bins.

Thersleff explained that one of the team’s goals is to keep BSM green. Besides collecting recyclables, they also remove the lids from plastic bottles and send them to Aveda, where they are converted into caps for various Aveda products. Their work doesn’t only benefit the environment, though. The recycled paper that PRI sorts and disposes of actually earns money for the school as well.

Seeing as the PRI staff is pretty busy throughout the day at BSM, there are a few things that can be done to make their jobs easier. Students should note that construction paper isn’t actually recyclable due to the excessive amount of dyes, although it is compostable. The same goes for coffee cups and the containers for those beloved fruit smoothies. Overall, Thersleff urges students to reach out to the PRI workers. “If people have questions they should always feel free to ask a recycler or me! The recyclers love to talk and know their jobs,” Thersleff said.