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Proposal would keep recycling group afloat, encourages fundraising

SCARCE, based at 799 Roosevelt Road in Glen Ellyn, could see a huge funding shortfall if the county pulls its financial support next year. (Michelle Manchir/Tribune)

SCARCE, based at 799 Roosevelt Road in Glen Ellyn, could see a huge funding shortfall if the county pulls its financial support next year. (Michelle Manchir/Tribune)

An environmental education group would continue to receive funding for now, but would be on the hook next year to come up with more private donations in lieu of public county funding, DuPage County officials said this week.

DuPage County’s current $155,750 contract with School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education, or SCARCE, ends June 30, and the county board initially did not set aside funding for the group after that.

After a series of meetings in which advocates for SCARCE, including its founder and director Kay McKeen, lobbied for support, some county board members have formulated a plan to fully fund the group until the county’s fiscal year ends in November. After that,  the county would offer the group a grant for the next year with the hopes that a portion of the money would go to getting the ball rolling on permanent fundraising effort to sustain the group, said DuPage County Board Member James Healy.

That plan, if approved, would provide 18 months of funding and time to hire someone who would work full-time on fundraising for the group, which presents Earth flags to area schools, business and hospitals that achieve environmentally friendly practices, Healy said.

If the plan is supported by the board next month, Healy believes McKeen and volunteers who run teacher workshops, classroom lessons, book drives and more, should be able to collect small donations from the local schools and businesses they help.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Healy said about the dozens of SCARCE advocates who’ve addressed county officials, urging them to continue funding the group. “All those people should be motivated to turn to their governmental units and say, ‘You know the county’s right. Let’s all kick in a little amount.’”

Among other activities and efforts, the group teaches composting, recycling, water conservation. Classes are often free for local businesses and school districts, Healy said.

According to the group’s 2010 tax forms, $35,810 of the group’s $313,772 annual revenue came from gifts and grants, while $230,659 came from the county. The rest came from recycling programs and awareness programs.

While the group charges for school assemblies now, some parent teacher groups and districts don’t have the money, McKeen said.

“So you can say no and not help those 470 kids in that school or you can say yes and do it for free,” she said.

McKeen said the group would work hard to become more self-sustaining, but that her understanding is that there is no “consensus” among board members for what will happen with the SCARCE contract.

Still, McKeen said the group would really “have to step up our fundraising.”

“We’re just going to try to do as much … as we can. We know these people care,” she said. “We’re tiny, and we need help.”

Healy, a member of the county board’s finance committee, said the county has been urging McKeen for more than decade to do more to generate more private funds. Healy said county money for the group — more than $4 million over about 12 years from waning tipping fees and the county’s storm water fund — could be better suited to go toward the county’s convalescent center or health department, which fall more in line with the county’s “mission.”

“The county did what it was supposed to do,” Healy said. “It started the ball rolling.”

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