Donna Venso looks out on the floor of the ReUse It Center. She does not see boards and nails and broken lamps; she sees a million projects waiting to spring to life.

Donna Venso looks out on the floor of the ReUse It Center. She does not see boards and nails and broken lamps; she sees a million projects waiting to spring to life.

Venso, a center volunteer, has a made a hobby of collecting other people’s junk and turning it into something beautiful and useful.

A grain bucket or an old rusty tool box might become a flower planter, an old lamp a bird bath, a piece of a baby bed a magazine rack.

Venso conducted a workshop for crafty repurposers like herself Tuesday night at the center.

The ReUse It Center, 1060 W. Kansas, McPherson, is a non-profit organization that accepts donated scrap building supplies, used furniture and appliances, and various odds and ends. Proceeds from the sales of these items go to local charities.

LaVon Ediger, chairman of the center board, said the center has a four-pronged mission.

The center’s first mission is to keep things out of the landfill. He noted recently a person was going to take a roll top desk to the landfill. A neighbor encouraged him to take it to the center. It sold the same day for $45.

Second, the center attempts to offer household items at reasonable prices to people who otherwise could not afford them.

Third, ReUse It shares its proceeds with local charities. Some of these have included Operation Warmth, Angel’s Attic in Moundridge, Habitat for

Humanity, the Omega Project and Mennonite Central Committee.

Finally, center volunteers work to create good relations in the community.

“We had a volunteer who said he visited the other day for 15 minutes with a lady who had just lost her husband,” Ediger said. “We see this as a ministry. We try to encourage people.”

Ediger said Venso, who used to be a flea market dealer, has been invaluable in helping the staff learn how to price items and dream up new uses for donated materials.

One example is cribs. The center can’t legally sell old cribs or baby beds to be used as cribs for safety reason.

Venso offered several alternatives. The springs of the crib can be used as a web to display cards or pictures. She also used them to display small items, such as antique kitchen utensils, when she worked as a flea market vendor.

Kathy Neufeld Dunn, Center board member, suggested hanging pots from the springs.

A crib end or baby bed head board could be used to make a bench or as a trellis for flowers or vegetables.

Another participant suggested a crib side piece could be used as a magazine rack.

Venso offered a number of different ideas for decorative wall pieces. Cabinet doors either with wood or glass panels can be painted with a name, a word or image. Wax markers work well on glass. Some crafters paint images on  door or window screens. Old windows with or without glass can be turned into wall hangings. Add wallpaper or fabric to the window frame for added color, she said.

A desk drawer could be used as a spice box or shadow box.

A participant bought an empty wooden silverware box to make into a wall-hanging jewelry box.

Anything that can have cork adhered to it can become a message board. Anything that is metal can become a magnetic message board. Venso had taken the lid of an old washing machine and the metal plate for hanging curtains and converted them into message boards by using magnets.

One patron of the center uses old lamps to create bird baths, Venso said. However, she suggested antique light fixtures also could be converted into candle holders or potpourri holders.

For more information on the center, call 620-245-0122 or email Volunteers and donations are always welcome.

For those wishing to donate or purchase from the center, the center is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Cristina Janney can be reached at or follow her on Twitter @macsentinel.