From trash to treasure: residents play for best pickings

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Mobs of people rush to where a dining table and chairs were being lifted out of a truck. Hands held high in the air, they yell out random numbers between one and 20.

Only one would drive home as the lucky winner of the used dining set at the annual Take It or Leave It event on Saturday. Christian Fundytus, city worker and one of the ‘auctioneers’, laughed and pointed at a woman who guessed correctly.

“You’ve got it,” he says.

The event had 505 vehicles drop off used items where hundreds of residents lined up to take them for free.

Last year 582 vehicles dropped off items.

Olivia Kwok, supervisor of waste and diversion programs with the city, says even though last year had more cars, this year was just as busy.

“Even though it was less, that doesn’t equal how much material was reused or how many people came,” she says. “It was still a very popular event this year, people were consistently there from eight in the morning to even past 1:30.”

To keep order among residents, city public works employees asked the crowd to answer questions. Those with the correct answers would take home the item.

Lorraine Demer was one of the lucky residents to beat others in the bid for free items. However, her grab was more on the eclectic side.

Proudly holding a child-sized scarecrow with a yellow head featuring a smiling face painted on in red, she beams widely.

“I just thought (the scarecrow) was the best thing and no one wanted him. I think he’s a perfect date, he never says no and he doesn’t argue,” she jokes.

She says each year she picks the most interesting item, however sometimes her brother stops her from loading it into the truck and taking it home.

Demer says last year she chased a papier-mâché cow across the parking lot as the wind pulled it around. The year prior to that she found a giant snowman.

“I feel sorry for them so I take them. Somebody took a lot of work to make them,” she says.

Not far away from Demer, a group of people are pushing around a city worker holding a sink tap in the air.

The tap, valued at about $10, was talked up by Jamie MacMillan. He says as soon as he yelled out wanting the cheap tap, people jumped around it in an attempt to claim it.

“It’s total mob-mentality,” he says while laughing. He says he didn’t win the tap.

Kwok says while there was a definite chaos during the day, she did witness some acts of community kindness.

“There were a lot of community moments too. I saw people sharing items, even let’s say if they won it, they noticed other people who wanted it too and would give it to them. I saw people helping each other, loading each other’s cars too.”

All the uncollected items at the end filled 2.5 bins of garbage for the landfill. One of the bins contained scrap metal and was hauled off for recycling.

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.