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Jim Schaper: Weston Recycling's Founding Father

WESTON, Conn. – Every Saturday morning, the Onion Barn in Weston is filled with residents dropping off their bottles and cans in an effort to raise money for the Weston High School Boosters Club. Since the recycling program began in 1981, the Boosters Club has been able to raise nearly $200,000 for various sports programs at the high school. The club is proud of the accomplishment and has one person to thank: Jim Schaper.

Schaper and his wife, Adele, have lived in town since 1959, and all four of their children graduated from Weston High School. During the early 1980s, their two youngest, Amanda and Peter, were No. 1 ranked tennis players whose team needed court windscreens, ball hoppers, practice balls and team t-shirts. Both an avid tennis player and concerned parent, Schaper said, “I wanted to raise money for the kids.”

In an effort to secure these much-needed items, Schaper attended a Boosters meeting and proposed the teens collect bottles and cans weekly to raise money. His suggestion coincided with the State of Connecticut’s new bottle and can redemption program. “They liked my idea so much, they appointed me project manager,” reflected Schaper. And so began the bottle and can drive, a Boosters Club hallmark that has spanned three decades.

Having been part of the Kiwanis Club’s restoration of the Onion Barn, he decided it would make an ideal site for the drive and obtained the needed approval. It was at the Onion Barn, a town icon on Weston Road, that players from high school teams would gather weekly, from 9 a.m. to noon, to collect bags of bottles and cans. It is a tradition that continues today.

“We are forever thankful to Jim Schaper for the redemption project. It has been a steadfast fund-raiser for the club and we encourage residents to think of us on Saturday mornings. Instead of filling their blue recycling bins, the sports teams can greatly benefit from their tax-deductible bottle and can donations. We earn $12 per bag and it really adds up,” said Boosters Club President Dawn Egan.

Current bottle and can chairman Ira Saferstein added, “This is a great community service activity for the kids that raises important funds for the Boosters.” Though the teens collect on Saturdays, bottles and cans can be dropped off in the bin behind the Onion Barn at any time.

In order to raise awareness for his Boosters initiative, Jim wrote letters to local newspapers and set out collection boxes with promotional decals. Schaper even created and placed catchy signs in the center of town that read: “Cans and bottles, bottles and cans, give 'em to the Boosters' fans.” In addition, Schaper posted signs at local retail outlets asking customers to drop off their recyclables at the Onion Barn instead.

Hailing from White Fish Bay, Wisc., outside of Milwaukee, Schaper was a University of Wisconsin graduate. He took a job with Ryeron Steel, was transferred to Connecticut in 1956, and stayed with the company for 37 years. Soon after, he met and married his wife and has lived on Merry Lane since. He has embraced Weston by becoming active in the community. He remains a Kiwanis member and has held past posts on committees and boards at Norfield Church, the Weston Field Club, the Weston Historical Society and the Westport-Weston YMCA Y’s Men.

Though retired, Schaper stays busy with a ski house in Vermont and six grandchildren.  Ever dedicated, he still brings bottles and cans back from Vermont to support the Boosters Club fundraising tradition he launched so long ago. He continues to be the program’s No. 1 advocate and still urges Weston parents to “Talk it up. Save your bottles.”

For more information on the Boosters Club, email Dawn Egan at jdweston@optonline.net or visit www.whsboosters.com .

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