southtownstar
UPBEAT 
Weather Updates

Volunteer branches out ... by bringing branches in

Jennifer Molski 44 Flossmoor spearheaded Christmas tree holiday lights recycling program Homewood-Flossmoor arethis open anyone who would like recycle.

Jennifer Molski, 44, of Flossmoor, spearheaded the Christmas tree and holiday lights recycling program in the Homewood-Flossmoor area that is open to anyone who would like to recycle. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 60559076
tmspicid: 21948962
fileheaderid: 10373644
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: February 17, 2014 6:58AM



Jennifer Molski thinks her interest in volunteer work may just be “in our DNA.”

Molski, 44, said her parents, Flossmoor residents Roger and Marcia Molski, have been her inspiration, remaining actively involved for many years in church and community events in the Homewood-Flossmoor area.

Her father “has been my biggest influence,” Molski said. “He’s lived a life of service.”

Following in his footsteps, when Molski returned to Flossmoor five years ago after marrying Homewood native Tony Manos in 2007, she spearheaded a Christmas tree and holiday lights recycling program with the cooperation of the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District and the Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center.

“I used to drive around the city and I always enjoyed the very popular Christmas tree recycling programs,” Molski said. “I just thought it was so neat that people would take the time and make the effort to do that.”

Molski said several drop-off areas in the city where the trees were “spilling into the road” were in stark contrast to the individual trees at the curbside of Flossmoor residences “waiting for the disposal company to pick them up.”

”I instantly knew I wanted to try to change that,” Molski said.

An environmentalist at heart, Molski said she knew the trees could be put to better use than cluttering a landfill, but she wasn’t sure where to go with her idea.

The answer was in Molski’s own “back yard.”

“I drive by Irons Oaks every day on my way to work down Vollmer. ... and I just made the connection that ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if they could be the drop-off point and people could just drive in. ... drop their tree off and maybe Irons Oaks could make use of the trees?’ ” Molski said. “I contacted them and they were on board immediately.”

That was in early 2010. By the Christmas season that same year, Molski and her volunteers had the first Christmas tree recycling program in place.

Molski said the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District brings a wood chipper to the collection site to create mulch for Irons Oaks’ paths and trails. The park district spreads the mulch in the spring.

A promise Molski made to herself to improve the program every year resulted in adding the holiday lights recycling program the following year.

In 2013, the recycling program received a grant from The Pollination Project, a nonprofit that gives $1,000 grants to “individual change makers,” according to the website.

Molski used the money to build a website, one way to spread the word about the program, she said.

“It’s still hard for all of us volunteers when you drive around and see trees at the curb,” Molski said. “Right now we have about 450 trees — which is huge — but there still are a lot of trees that are going to landfills. I’m trying to crack that code of how to encourage more people to participate.”

Although the recycling program requires a good deal of Molski’s time, and she works with her husband in their web-based business, 5S Supply, in Frankfort, she doesn’t limit herself to one service project. Molski is also a volunteer dog walker for the Midwest English Springer Spaniel Rescue organization and she is the founder of Leave it for Love, a nonprofit gift recycling program that is dear to her heart.

In 2002, Molski said she found herself overrun with “accumulated stuff” she loved but had no room for in her small Chicago apartment.

“I just thought to myself, ‘There’s got to be a better way. Someone might need these mittens or these leg warmers to stay warm this year,’ ” Molski said.

The solution was to combine two of her passions.

“I love older adults. I just have a special place in my heart for older adults,” she said.

As a former geriatric social worker, Molski worked with the Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly in Chicago and contacted them about distributing the gifts collected at various drop-off points. The Little Brothers, who have an annual caseload of about 1,000 older adults in need, immediately became a part of the program.

Leave it for Love has five drop-off locations in the city and south suburbs, recently adding the Jonathan Kane Salon in Flossmoor for a special “Share the Love” collection during the entire month of February.

Molski said Leave it for Love is a win-win program, offering donors an easy way to dispose of items they can’t use or don’t want and providing many less fortunate, often isolated elderly recipients with a special gift.

“It’s easy on the pocketbook, easy on the environment and it’s great for the human spirit,” Molski said. “I think it’s an easy way to make a difference.”

For a Christmas tree and holiday lights recycling schedule or for more information, visit www.hfchristmastreerecycling.org.

For more information about Leave it for Love, visit www.leaveitforlove.org.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.