Monday, September 22, 2014

Reclamation of Boards and Men

I had fully intended to tell you this story like a week ago.

I am sorry, I used the word “like” in an inappropriately teenage way. I will punish myself later.

Now back to my story. Well really, it isn’t my story at all. It is someone else’s story. But I get to tell it which is excellent in every way.

Several weeks ago now I was off on my next photo adventure for Towards Employment. This day, a rainy Friday morning, found me in an industrial part of Cleveland trying to figure out which building belonged to Rustbelt Reclamation. I will tell you about them in a minute because what they do is FREAKING COOL. I found, on that rainy morning, that doing my homework before hand is a very good thing because I had found the address for Rustbelt and figured out where to park but I had no earthly clue where the actual company was. I was wandering along, looking for someone to ask when I saw a face in the distance that I had seen before……it happened to be the president of Rustbelt Reclamation, whose picture I had seen while doing my research….and who also happened to be a classmate of HHBL’s while they were both getting an MBA at Case Western. SAVED! Deej Lincoln, once he figured out that I was the photographer they were expecting and not some crazy haired stalker woman, walked me over to the correct building, SO not where I thought it might be, and waited with me for my Towards Employment cohort, Jessica, to arrive.

I was at Rustbelt Reclamation for two reasons. I was there to photograph several men who are TE graduates and are now working at Rustbelt Reclamation and I was there to take a photo or two of Rustbelt Reclamation itself, to tell it’s story just a bit.

Robert, Regis and Lamar were a bit more reserved with me….at least at the beginning. Who was the crazy haired little white woman come to invade their space.
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There weren’t that many smiles. That is until I started asking a question or two. And when I wasn’t afraid to get a bit dirty, kneeling on the floor to get just the right picture there was a smile or two showing up.
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HA! I knew there was some humor in there somewhere. They couldn’t resist the lens for long.
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These men are proud of the job that they are doing at Rustbelt Reclamation and they have a right to be. They worked hard to get here, going through the TE program. They work hard here at Rustbelt Reclamation. 

And the photos might have ended right here except for one question.

I asked them what their favorite part of the building was. Where did they like to be the most. And all of them gave me the same answer. The second floor. Why the second floor? Well because that is where they all started when they came to work for Rustbelt, the second floor, pulling nails out of wood. 

I probably should tell you a bit about Rustbelt Reclamation at this point. Pure and simple, they reclaim what otherwise might be lost from old buildings that are going to be torn down. Primarily that would be wood and metal items. The wood comes to them from various sources, all metal nails and strapping etc is removed, the wood is cleaned and planed and made into boards which become tables and floors and cabinets and wine bottle carriers and all manner of things. Really, look at their website and see all of the things that they make with these reclaimed materials. It is just fabulous. And they are expanding! Next month they will be moving their offices into the building across the street from the plant. I would have hung around there all day and just breathed in the smell of wood.
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All the reclaimed wood is marked with it’s place of origin. They know exactly where every board foot came from. And that is because, when they are done with a piece of furniture or an installation of cabinetry they add one of these….
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A “coin” that tells you exactly where the wood came from. Really, so cool. Sorry for the blurriness of the photo, I took it on the fly.

Alright, now back to the story. So, once I knew about the second floor we had to go down and take a picture or two of course. But before we could do that the guys needed to round up their “props”. They wouldn’t take a picture without the tools of the trade.
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This is some of the wood that currently resides on the second floor, waiting for the skills of Robert, Regis and Lamar. Flooring from an old Chrysler plant in Indianapolis…thousands and thousands of board feet that the guys from Rustbelt went out to Indianapolis, packed up and brought back to Cleveland. Who knows what it might become!!
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I tell you, the pride in work and doing a good job and loving the job that they do just beamed out of these men.

I couldn’t keep them all day although I wanted to. I wanted to hear their stories. But they had work to do so I finally sent them on their way. After that it was off with Chris Gellin, who is the Director of Harvesting and Raw Material, for a tour of the rest of the facility. 

I am just going to show you the pictures or we might be here…..for at least another ten thousand words.
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RusRec Deb 6bwI don’t know what this is but I wanted it very badly. I am sure I could find a use for it!!
RusRec Deb 8bwWhy do industrial settings lend themselves to black and white photography. Makes me feel like Margaret Bourke White.
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I think Jessica and Chris might have gotten a bit exasperated with me. Every time they turned around I was lagging behind taking photos. Really, this place is fabulous.
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R to L: Brinton Lincoln, Deej Lincoln, Chris Gellin and Wayne Berry.

Why are they laughing you are asking yourself? Because I am kneeling in the street and I had just told them that I HOPED they would tell me when the truck got close enough to run me over.

Thank you Robert, Lamar and Regis for letting me take your picture over and over and over again.
Thank you Deej, Brinton, Chris and Wayne for letting me wander around your reclamation space.

Thank you for being the kind of company that is willing to put in the time and effort to reclaim both boards and men.


  1. Rustbelt Reclamation (and Robert, Regis, and Lamar) are nothing short of amazing! I may do all my Christmas shopping from their website. Thanks for telling the story!

  2. I find myself so very jealous of your experience! How awesome was that. You captured the personalities of your three new friends perfectly. I am so, so envious of the time you were able to spend getting to know them, wandering around the place with all that old, gorgeous wood, everything. Fortunate, blessed you.

    Oh, and the word 'like' isn't just for high school anymore. It's bled down to elementary grades. It's peppered in between every other word in Sophie's non-stop dialogue. So, like away.

  3. one of my favorite of your posts. just lovely

  4. The other guy on far left - Wayne Barry


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