Local Community Spotlight – The Buddy Bench Project
Tell us about your cause?
“Our cause is called the Pay it Forward Buddy Bench Project. The Redondo Beach Kiwanis Club has set the goal of helping schools/groups get 500 benches in 5 years! We help those schools collect plastic caps and lids and send them to a company in Indiana that grinds up those caps and lids and makes a buddy bench out of them!”
What inspired you to launch the Buddy Bench cause?
“A project focused on kids is one inspiration. I am an Adapted PE teacher (PE for students with disabilities) and I also created a sports camp for BOTH kids with and without disabilities to play, learn and grow together called Superhero Sports Camp. So a project like this, that is character building and encourages kids to show kindness in a variety of ways to each other makes my heart happy. The recycling piece of this project is the other inspiration. My first recycling project was when I was in high school. I recycled to earn my trip to Australia with the marching band and I haven’t stopped recycling since then! It’s pretty awesome to see how much plastic we are repurposing instead of the plastic ending up in the oceans, gutters and landfills.”
What is one of your proudest moments?
“One of the proudest moments is watching how big one idea/thought can get! It takes a village and this project is proof of that. A teacher at Arnold Elementary reposted and tagged some of the other teachers, including myself on Sammie’s Facebook Buddy Bench post. Sammy lives in Indiana and started the Buddy Bench movement. Our coworker told us we should do a bench at our school like Sammie has been doing. I decided that her suggestion of collecting caps for a Buddy Bench was a great idea. I started collecting caps and then I asked my Redondo Beach Kiwanis Club members to help me collect. We also reached out to our neighbors on the Nextdoor app to help collect caps as well. And in a small amount of time, between all the neighbors/Kiwanis members and the school families, we collected 1,000 pounds of caps and have picked up our first 5 benches! The last week of school, we presented Arnold Elementary School, in Torrance, with their 3 benches they worked for! Redondo Beach Kiwanis presented the other 2 benches to a school in Hermosa and one in Torrance this past June. We also just ordered 16 more benches right before Christmas!”
What can one expect when getting involved the Buddy Bench Project?
“It is SUPER easy to get involved with this project. Everyone wanting to help has two options. Keep your CRV recycling (bottle and cap) and lids (attached flyer lists acceptable items) and give them to us or just collect caps and lids to give to us. The CRV bottle money goes towards sports equipment for my students and the caps and lids go to the current school(s) working towards their benches. We have 2 different people in our Kiwanis Club that you can drop caps off to their homes and then the caps/lids get distributed to the schools working for benches for the students to clean, sort and weigh.”
How can the community support you?
“The community can help by saving the actual caps and lids and also making money donations to Redondo Beach Kiwanis Club. Another way to support us is if anyone knows truck drivers that go to Indiana that can add our caps to their load and bring benches back to us, that would be amazing. Or if anyone has a connection in the shipping world to help us with the logistics of sending caps/lids and receiving benches, we would appreciate your help and support. Another way the community can support this project is storage space. Having a place to safely store caps/lids before they get distributed to schools and before they get shipped to Indiana would be pretty incredible! Right now we are using our homes, garages and work spaces to store the bags of caps/lids. We are also looking for sponsors to pay for the money portion of the benches, each bench costs $300.00 and 200 pounds of caps. Any families or businesses that sponsor a bench would get a plaque put on the bench.”
There is a monthly collection, the first Saturday of every month in 2021 at Alta Vista Park – 801 Camino Real from 9am – 12pm.
Where do the donations go?
“All donations made go towards the costs of shipping caps/lids to Indiana, shipping the benches to us and the cost of the benches. Each 6’ bench, with a back, costs $300.00 AND 200 pounds of caps. We ask each school that wants benches to collect caps/lids and we work on raising the money for the costs of their benches and shipping. The impact we are making is spreading kindness everywhere and empowering kids to help each other. These benches empower students to be comfortable expressing their emotions in a safe space and having the opportunity to help each other! We are also giving the kids the opportunity to take ownership of their bench project for their school. The kids are responsible for cleaning, sorting (removing unacceptable caps and lids), weighing and bagging all the caps and lids for their benches. The other cool impact we are making is removing thousands of pounds of plastic from the landfills, beaches and our streets!”
Tell us a little about you:
“My name is Carol. I have lived in the South Bay for 20 years. I am a California native, born and raised in Arcadia. My purpose on this planet is to help kids. I do not have any kids of my own, I get to play sports with all of your kids! Through my passion for teaching PE to students with disabilities, I created a sports camp that is for both kids with and without disabilities. The magical and impactful little moments that my campers have with each other while playing sports lights me up and melts my heart! I am a very sporty person myself. I have played softball all my life, I’m still playing today. I really love being in nature. It’s awesome how a hike can turn a day around for me and make me so happy and I usually come away with a pocket full of caps for the Buddy Benches. The Redondo Beach Kiwanis Club just had our one year anniversary and we are excited to work with the Redondo Beach community with this any many more projects benefiting the kids, #kidsneedkiwanis!”
What do you enjoy doing in the South Bay when you are not working on your cause?
“I love being outdoors. And with the beach as our backyard, I have endless options! I work out, roller skate (old school skates that my dad made!), SUP (stand up paddle board), skateboard, bike and walk all over the South Bay. I like jumping in the ocean, going for hikes, eating at farm-to-table type local places, supporting local businesses and watching the ocean life, it never gets old seeing dolphins, whales etc.!”
Buddy Bench Acceptable Caps List:
Check out these additional Community News Stories:
South Bay Gives Back: Homeless Project
Community Gives Back: The Good Use App