McGraw House Recycles

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Tompkins Weekly 12/27/2011
by Carol Mallison
McGraw House, which opened in 1971, is a private non-profit organization with 105 studio and one-bedroom apartments for low and moderate income Seniors 62 years of age or older. We are a HUD facility, governed by NYS’s Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) and managed by a volunteer Board of Directors.

The Senior Citizens living at McGraw House take a special interest in recycling, because it’s good for our planet, it’s good for personal living, and it helps reduce the cost of trash removal, paid for by resident rents. As a result, there is a growing list of ways residents participate in use and re-use practices.

Residents receive many packages, especially around the holidays. Packing peanuts can be a real nuisance outside in the trash if they start blowing around. As a result, we have a packing materials recycling bin for clean peanuts, bubble wrap, plastic pillows, and other forms of packaging.  Residents can help themselves when mailing packages. And, what’s left is donated to businesses that mail packages.

Our resident library has grown, thanks to the book donations people are willing to recycle for others to read. Used eyeglasses are given to the Lions project.  Dead button batteries are recycled. Our vast collection of puzzles comes from used puzzles being recycled by others. When puzzles have been completed, we in turn recycle them to another organization eager to receive these donations.

Residents moving out of the building often have items to give away. The Human Service Coalition’s list serve is a great place to recycle items in good condition such as carpeting, furnishings, and household items. Occasionally, we’re able to offer an old, worn out refrigerator that still has some life left as a beverage container for someone’s garage or camp.

One of the most popular forms of recycling is our give-away bench. Here people drop off, clean, gently used items that are looking for a new home. Anyone in need can find kitchen utensils, shelving units, seasonal decorations, house wares, blank greeting cards, unopened canned goods and other products, costume jewelry, magazines, unique brick-a-brack, etc. The bench has expanded to include a clothing rack with all forms of clean, no longer wanted clothing. At the end of a week, all unclaimed items are taken to the Salvation Army or other second hand businesses.

The shelf life of most items on the give-away bench is a day or two, and often only minutes. Once, someone found the perfect winter coat there. As they stood talking with a visitor down the hall, they heard another resident exclaim loudly that their coat was gone!  “I only just put it down for a minute,” they cried. The person with the “new” winter coat realized a mistake had been made, and it was quickly returned to its owner who never put something on the give-away bench temporarily again.

The best example of sustainability at McGraw House is our building renovation project.  In this, our 40th year of operation, all the apartments are undergoing renovation, thanks to funds awarded by the NYS Housing Trust Fund Corporation, NYS Housing Finance Agency, and the Federal Home Loan Bank.

By the project’s completion, each apartment will benefit from added insulation, new windows, floors, heating and cooling units, kitchens and appliances, kitchen lighting, closet doors, entrance door handles, smoke detectors, and a fresh coat of paint. As a result, the building will receive a new lease on life, allowing us to continue providing high quality affordable housing to eligible Senior Citizens for another 40 years.

For an application or a tour, contact us at or call 607-272-7054.

Carol Mallison is the Executive Director of McGraw Housing Company, Inc.

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