The second time around, she hopes, will be the charm. Geri LaPlaca has opened a recycling business, Your ReSource Inc., in Ewing. First she is collecting gently used durable medical equipment — everything from hospital beds to walkers — and distributing it to those who desperately need it. Then she will find other ways to snatch other useful items from the gaping maws of the trash trucks.
LaPlaca began her recycling career with the Trenton Materials Exchange, the innovative nonprofit founded on a shoestring. When LaPlaca arrived at TME, she added durable medical goods to its mission of recycling computers and office furniture. She collected everything from hospital beds to canes — wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, commodes, shower chairs, portable ramps, scooters, and patient lifts. Social workers and hospital discharge planners depended on her for help with clients whose insurance did not cover equipment or who had no insurance.
LaPlaca’s new nonprofit will start out by filling the huge need for used medical equipment with a program called Community Access to Rehabilitation Equipment (CARE). Recipients are asked to pay a handling charge, 10 or 20 percent of the cost of new equipment, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
LaPlaca now has a warehouse where equipment can be cleaned and refurbished. She has a van for pickups and deliveries, and she hopes to arrange pick-up points throughout the state so that truck pick-ups will be practical.
LaPlaca, 53, grew up in Princeton, where her father was a barber, a contractor, and a real estate owner. She trained as a physical therapist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, worked at Duke University Hospital, and did therapy in the home health area. She moved north to be with her parents and joined Carol Royal, who founded TME in 2000. After four successful years it closed for lack of funding support.
Thanks to two anonymous donors and a grant, LaPlaca’s new venture is funded for at least the first year. After she gets CARE off the ground she will turn to educating, actually reeducating, the public. “The mission of the business is to help meet critical community needs — helping to really educate people,” says LaPlaca. “People will take a new commode that they no longer need and put it at the curb. But there are 1.2 million people in New Jersey with no health insurance.”
She hopes to do collection programs for items like sneakers, laser cartridges, and fluorescent bulbs. Sneakers can turn into asphalt and tires, cartridges can be recycled, and fluorescent bulbs pollute the landfills; Mercer County is not among the counties in New Jersey that collect them. Says LaPlaca: “We want to push education and we have some ideas on how we can make it a lot more fun.” This new business is not alone. “Amazing re-use programs are going on over the country, more of them in the last five years,” she says.
“We are telling people, take a little responsibility and donate,” she says. “Clean out your closet of new stuff and what can be reused. And when you go shopping, think if you really need what you are getting. We are going to say, ‘You may have what you need at home.’”
Your ReSource Inc., 8 Industry Court, Ewing 08638; 609-530-1513; fax, 609-530-1514. Geri LaPlaca, director. www.yourresourcenj.org Community Access to Rehabilitation Equipment.