Benicia holding metal drive for crossing guards

November 8, 2010 7:34:10 AM PST
In Benicia, a true public-private partnership is helping to clean up streets, alleys and backyards, while keeping crossing guards on the job. All it takes is a little scrap metal.

Ordinarily when scrap metal is melted down, it winds up in a new car, or aluminum can, or even a work of art. But, in Benicia this scrap metal is being transformed into school crossing guards. It was Phil Joy's idea.

"On Saturday from 8-4, we put on this metal drive and people are coming in two or three cars deep and dropping off their barbecues, washing machines -- any metal they have," said Joy.

In just two weekends, people have dropped off a total of 35,000 pounds of steel, aluminum and other metals. He sells the heavy stuff for about $250 a ton. Lighter metal sells for about $180 a ton, and he turns the proceeds over to the city -- which helps subsidize the crossing guard program.

"Some of the most vulnerable members of our community are the kids. It seems like the crossing guards are a function that I don't want to see go away," said Benicia city councilmember Mike Loakimedes.

This Benicia city council member planted the seed of Joy's idea after the council voted to cut $16,000 from the crossing guard program. He put out a call to the community for ideas to restore the cuts. Phil Joy says a light bulb went off in his head: everybody's got some kind of metal laying around they want to get rid of.

"It's really a win-win situation. They're cleaning out their backyards and it's going to a good cause -- the crossing guards," said Joy.

But, it quickly got a little more involved than he expected. Sometimes, he has to drive out and pick up scrap from elderly or sick people who can't make the trip to his boat yard. And he still has to work at his day job -- a contractor who moves whole houses. $16,000 will keep all the crossing guards on the job. They're about a third of the way there. And he's not going to stop until the money is raised -- he says the cause is just too important.

"I see people driving up and down the road, texting on the phone, using the phone, not paying attention. So having the crossing guard out there is very important to the kids," said Joy.

They've been raising, on average, about $2,000 per week. At that rate they should be about half way now to the $16,000 needed to keep all the crossing guards on the job.


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