You may be able to spot Dr. Marilyn Melchiorre’s car in the parking lot. It’s the one usually overflowing with glass bottles that will soon become repurposed.
When Melchiorre, a College of Idaho professor of business, isn’t in the classroom, she often can be seen helping out as a board member of local nonprofit Ūsful Glassworks. The organization, which recycles empty glass bottles into drinking glasses, wind chimes and more, also helps people get on their feet and back into the workforce by providing them a job and vocational training.
“We say that we’re working with one bottle and one person at a time,” Melchiorre said.
Melchiorre, who moved to Idaho in 2010 and comes from a background in workforce development, was “immediately hooked” after learning about Ūsful Glassworks. She describes the organization as a “full circle of doing good” as job-training participants including offenders, refugees, homeless folks, at-risk youth, disadvantaged veterans and more are able to gain job skills and recycle glass bottles into reusable products. Melchiorre has watched Ūsful Glassworks grow from a 2,000 square-foot to a 10,000 square-foot facility while helping more than 130 individuals.
“For me, it is so rewarding to help people get job skills and get a job reference,” she said. “And hopefully in six to nine months, we see them placed into a permanent position.”
And how does a glass bottle become repurposed?
After receiving glass bottles, Ūsful Glassworks separates them into usable and unusable piles, with unusable bottles being crushed and recycled. Usable bottles are cut based upon the size of glass needed and then each piece goes through a rigorous eight-step process to bevel, shape and polish the glass to look brand new. The profits from products sold are put back into the job training program.
Melchiorre has even incorporated the nonprofit into The College of Idaho campus. One student per semester can intern with Ūsful Glassworks in either marketing or accounting. And last spring, students in a C of I project management class helped staff collection stations as Ūsful Glassworks tried to collect 10,000 glass bottles and raise $10,000 dollars on Idaho Gives Day—a day where Idahoans and nonprofits are brought together for giving and sharing. Students used social media and good old fashioned street signs to help Ūsful Glassworks collect more than 9,000 bottles.
“The community outreach was amazing,” said C of I student Kirby Roberts, who was a project manager at the Albertsons in downtown Caldwell. “We ended up collecting a lot more bottles than we had expected.”
So if you see a box of glass bottles around campus, chances are it’s for Melchiorre and her favorite nonprofit.
“I enjoy volunteering with Ūsful Glassworks,” she said. “It is important to me, that if I have skills and abilities, to share that with another organization to help them be successful.”
Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. The C of I has a legacy of academic excellence, a winning athletics tradition and a history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.