From tot to adult, scrap worker creates lasting effect

By Roneisha Jackson and Jade McClain
Durham VOICE Interns

There’s an old saying that goes, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

In other words what one may throw away, another may find a good use for.

Changing “junk” to “treasure” is a specialty of the people at the Scrap Exchange.

Savannah Ford, 24, is a frequent shopper and employee of Durham’s Scrap Exchange. She said the donated stuffed polar bear she is pictured next to is one of her favorite store items. Photo by Roneisha Jackson

For people in Durham, The Scrap Exchange is a place where items they might consider worthless can eventually wind up being valuable to others.

The scrap exchange has been around for 20 years and was founded in 1991 by a small group of people who had a great amount of materials that weren’t being used. In response, they decided to sell the items for low prices to students, parents, educators and others who desire art.

But behind the art that people buy are real people that enjoy serving the community.

Savannah Ford was once a girl who grew into a woman in the past two decades of The Scrap Exchange. She has shopped at the warehouse, had birthday parties and even volunteered working there.

Ford is a Durham native who has lived here all her life. She attended Bethesda Elementary and Lowe’s, Grove Middle School. She was home schooled from 8th grade and beyond.

She now works for The Scrap Exchange as an employee and said that it has always been a dream of hers. Ford said that even most of the furniture in her home came from the Scrap Exchange.

“I always wanted to work here from the first time my mother took me to The Scrap Exchange,” said Ford. “The old Scrap Exchange was near my house and neighborhood and that’s how it kind of got started.”

Ford began to work for the company after the roof collapsed at the old warehouse downtown during a severe thunderstorm earlier this year.

After the roof collapse at the old warehouse she began volunteering. According to Ann Woodward, director of The Scrap Exchange, Ford worked tirelessly as a volunteer and that in turn made her a promising hire.

Ford, who has been employed at the warehouse for more than three months, said that she would do anything to keep the scrap exchange from going under.

“I would feel guilty if I hadn’t come to volunteer here,” she said. “For me, money is such a little object that I’d be here for the Scrap anyway.”

Ford said that although losing the first warehouse was a loss, it is the people and art at the Scrap Exchange that really matters.

Since she now works at the Exchange, Ford doesn’t purchase from there as often as she once did. She said that she used to come to the Exchange for everything when she needed something such as household items.

“I always came to Scrap first because retail stores don’t usually have what Scrap would have,” said Ford. “The other stores don’t have the sort of variety that we have here.”

Ford called it a “joy” to work with the people at the Exchange and said that being around art all day will “mellow” a person out.

“I’ve invested a lot into it,” said Ford about her time at the Exchange. “Everything I have has been through the store including all my favorite material.”

Ford’s co-workers agree that she has invested as much in the company as anyone.

“Savannah is amazingly creative and talented,” said Woodward. “She is a big community person.”

Kurrell Rice is a fellow employee that has been working with Ford. He said that his co-worker is an easy person to work with.

“Savannah is extremely bubbly and easy to talk to,” said Rice. “She is always working and is very unpredictable and spontaneous.”

Being a part of The Scrap Exchange as long as she has, Ford said that the company must be doing something right to have the lasting effect it has had on the community.

“Scrap must be doing something right because they’ve been around for 20 years,” said Ford. “Why not 20 more years?”

Ford said that she wishes people to know how special The Scrap Exchange is and that while they visit and have fun, they should also pick up the message behind it all. That message is taking care of the environment while taking care of home and family along the way.

She said that things we throw away can affect the environment unless they’re put back into reuse.

“Everything in here can pretty much be reused and recycled,” said Ford. “We were green long before it became popular and it’s the right type of green too.”

Ford said that it’s hard to get a job at the Exchange because people don’t want to quit. She said that people that can’t get a “job” there should volunteer because they are urgently needed.

“Since we moved into a bigger building people have been bringing truckloads of stuff for us to sell,” she said.

Ford is passionate about her job and what she does. She said she believes that no amount of money is worth happiness.

“Why not get paid for what you love to do,” she said. “I have a lot more fun on my job than a normal employee.”

Ford said that in her years at The Scrap Exchange she has seen it outgrow itself.

“It is bigger than people would ever imagine,” she said.