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Creative Reuse: The Gift (Cards) That Keep On Giving

March 02, 2011 Julie

There are so many great ideas for creatively re-purposing items we would typically send off to the dumpster. Often, we can combine old materials with some new craft supplies and create something amazingly unique, functional, and good for the Earth. A win all around!

Creative reuse is a large part of my crafting and something I’m working to incorporate into the workshops here at Home Made. As you may already know, I have a little Recycle Center set up in the shop for collecting wine corks for this project as well as broken crayons, buttons, wool sweaters, and single-colored old tshirts. I often turn to websites/organizations like Craft:Make:, and Apartment Therapy’s Re-Nest for inspiration and try my best to collect with a project in mind so my stash doesn’t get out of hand (I think I’m succeeding, but it’s a slippery slope!).

The latest item I’m asking for your help in collecting is for a project called The Gifts That Keep On Giving Campaign. The man behind the project is Ryan Simmons. With this project, Ryan is not only paying it forward to the environment by recycling your used plastic gift cards but he’s also turning them into guitar picks, selling them on Etsy, and sharing all proceeds with area music and art programs. Pretty sweet, Ryan!

Photo courtesy of Ryan Simmons at www.imaginationsimmons.com

You can read my interview with Ryan (after the jump!) and drop off your used gift cards to me in the Home Made shop.You can even purchase Ryan’s guitar picks at Home Made or online here.

When did you start “The Gifts That Keep On Giving” campaign?

The Gifts That Keep On Giving Campaign was announced in the December. I reached out to friends, retailers and corporations looking for donated gift cards. Considering the amount of gift cards exchanged for Christmas, it felt like the right time to organize an effort like this. In January alone, the response was overwhelming–Urban Outfitters donated a couple thousand gift cards, Best Buy gave me 500, and Banana Republic collected 300! Beyond those companies, individual donors sent me their used cards. To date, we’ve gathered over 5500 cards.

What was your inspiration and why guitar picks? Do you play guitar? Were you sad that you had spent all the money on your own gift cards and reluctant to throw them out so you started making picks?

No, I’m not a musician so I don’t play guitar. Music is still really important to me and I wanted to find a way to contribute to the amazing culture that music cultivates. That’s how I got the idea for the campaign. Once I decided to have a fundraiser for music, incorporating recycling seemed like a great way to double the good will. Inviting others to donate their old cards and get involved has been the icing on the cake.

Who benefits from your campaign and why or how did you choose them?

The proceeds from each month are donated to different music programs. The goal is $500 a month over the course of ten months. The first month benefits Archbishop Ryan‘s Jazz Band in Northeast Philadelphia. I’m an Archbishop Ryan graduate and many of my friends are now teachers there, including my good friend Ted who directs their Jazz Band. The administration let him know that funding was tight so things like bus trips and new equipment would need to pass through a good bit of red tape before it was approved. In an effort to help alleviate budget restraints, I chose them as the first beneficiaries.

April’s proceeds will benefit Cape Educational COMPACT program. This local alternative education institute teaches students life skills in an impressively unique setting. I haven’t made any decisions regarding May and beyond, but I’d like to let customers and supporters have a say in where the money goes each month.

Which are your favorite gift cards to turn into guitar picks?

Because of the traditionally commercial nature of graphic design, it’s sometimes over looked as an art form. But, some of the gift card designs are nothing short of amazing. Nordstrom’s gift cards feature beautiful flowers. Zumiez’s gift cards look like a slice of cheese. The list goes on and on. You can check out all the git card designs on Ryan’s facebook page here.

You can see that Ryan is very organized!

What’s your “day job” and how does it affect your fundraising efforts with the Etsy shop?

My main source of income is my entertainment company. We provide event planning services and entertainment for most of Philadelphia’s sports teams. Considering most events happen during the weekend, I’m able to make The Gifts That Keep On Giving campaign my 9-5 Monday-Friday job.

What other ways have you thought about to repurpose gift cards?

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be debuting some jewelry made out of the guitar picks in the upcoming weeks.

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A big thanks to Ryan for the time he took for this interview and his initiative and committment for The Gifts That Keep On Giving Campaign. Contribute to his efforts by purchasing guitar picks from Home Made or his Etsy shop! And, don’t forget to drop off your used gift cards to Home Made’s Recycle Center. (:


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