Lions Clubs help turn bags into benches

Park Rapids and Nevis Lions Clubs Area that set up collection sites for plastic bags last year are seeing the rewards of their efforts to help save the earth.

Family and friends of Gail Walters attended a dedication of the first bench in her memory. Walters was a member of the Nevis Lions for many years and active in many other volunteer organizations. The bench is located at the Nevis Senior Center.
Contributed / Walters family
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Area Lions Clubs that set up collection sites for plastic bags last year are seeing the rewards of their efforts to help save the earth.

Barb Deery, who coordinates the program for the Nevis Lions, said they are awarded a bench made from recycled plastic materials for every six months they deliver 500 pounds or more of plastic to be recycled.

“The people in Nevis got on board with this project from the start,” she said. “We have had many people comment on what a great project this is. It’s all about recycling. When our grandkids have kids, we want to have a decent planet for them to live on.”

Nevis Lions working on third bench

The Nevis Lions have bins to collect the plastic bags at the Nevis Senior Center, visitor center and post office.

Lions members weigh the bags before bringing them to the loading dock at Coborn’s grocery store in Park Rapids. From there, they are shipped to the Nex Trex company in Texas.


Deery said they usually bring in around 30 to 60 pounds of plastic per trip.

“There are three of us who take it into town on a regular basis,” she said. “We collect a lot of plastic at the Nevis Senior Center because they have the food program there and have a lot of bread and bun bags. In our collections, you’d be amazed how many Walmart bags we’ve seen.”

Deery said she submits a report online to Nex Trex to track the amount collected.

In previous years, the Lions donated benches to Halverson Park near the Nevis city beach in memory of members who have passed away. Now that they are getting free benches from the recycling program, the group decided to dedicate benches to the memory of members.

The first bench was dedicated to long-time member Gail Walters and the second is going to be dedicated to member Paul Anderson, who was very active in both the Lions and the Nevis-Akeley Food Shelf.

The Lions are looking into the possibility of placing the third bench they are working towards at Muskie Park.

“Since the Nevis Lions were collecting more than the 500 pounds of plastic needed to earn a bench in six months, they offered to contribute their overflow plastic to the Nevis Girl Scouts and they will soon be getting their first bench,” Deery said. “It’s a joint effort.”

PR Lions collecting plastic by the ton

Dick Kimball of the Park Rapids Lions estimates they have collected a ton and a half of plastic bags since July 1 last year and are approaching the two-ton mark.


Phil Sailer sits on the bench the Park Rapids Lions received from their plastic collection efforts. It will be placed in Deane Park in Park Rapids.
Contributed / Dick Kimball

“From Jan. 1 to June 30 this year, I’ve picked up almost 900 pounds myself,” he said. “This is a forever project because plastic is not going away. There are lots of Lions clubs doing this all over the state, so together we’re keeping a lot of this plastic that would otherwise go into the landfill or into the burner because it’s not recyclable any other way. Only the company Nex Trex in Texas can use it.”

Collection boxes for the plastic are located in the lobbies of Riverside Methodist Church, Calvary Lutheran Church and St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Park Rapids.

Six members of the Park Rapids Lions take turns picking up the bags and bringing them to Coborn’s in Park Rapids.

“They send them from all their stores to St. Cloud, where they bale them and ship them down to Nex Trex,” he said.

Businesses in Park Rapids that are participating in the plastic collection effort include the Bearly Used Thrift Store, 3rd Street Market, Amish Oak, Coldwell Banker, Aunt Belle’s Confectionary and the Good Life Cafe.

Any business or organization wanting information on how to participate in the Park Rapids Lions plastic recycling program can contact the Lions on their Facebook page or by emailing

Organizations, such as schools, Scouts, or other non-profit organizations, who would like to start their own plastic collection program to earn benches can find more information at

The Park Rapids Lions Club presented awards at their Christmas party on Dec. 12.

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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