For Peg Upmeyer, it’s all about the kids.

It’s always been that way.

It was that way when she was a school teacher and it’s that way now as the executive director of Arts and Scraps, a Detroit non-profit organization that annually recycles 28 tons of material to help children think, create, and learn – reusing materials to make creative experiences affordable and accessible to every economic level.

Peg Upmeyer“Anybody that works with kids needs stuff, but they need ideas. When we see kids actually using their brain and thinking, instead of just copying, or following directions, or being right and wrong, we kind of call that making the magic. That’s what’s exciting to me, to see that child light up. When we work with kids, they actually use the information to think about it after they’ve designed or built something. We do art in the sense of creativity and thinking, not making things that are just so. There’s a big difference.”

Peg Upmeyer, executive director of Arts & Scraps

Upmeyer founded the organization with two of her friends, Nanci Ballantyne and Corine Tyler – both of whom exited long ago. Upmeyer has served as Arts and Scraps’ executive director since its inception in 1989.

The organization receives materials from 190 businesses in the Detroit area, motivating the community to see values in materials that traditionally have no value. Arts & Scraps provides these recycled scraps for minimal cost to 3,300 community organizations and classrooms annually, impacting 275,000 children – providing quality educational and creative experiences to underserved children in Metropolitan Detroit while limiting the negative impact on the environment.

Each year 10,000 volunteer hours are put in, coming from corporations, individuals, youth groups, and individuals with disabilities. The volunteers take those raw materials and put them into kits and lessons, as well as prepare them to go into a public store to be sold.

Arts and Scraps also provides affordable learning and creative experiences through 12 educational programs at its facility at 16135 Harper Ave. and in southeast Michigan.

Arts & Scraps programsCredit: artsandscraps.org

When those who can’t visit the facility to indulge in the programs, Arts and Scraps travels throughout the Detroit area by way of the ScrapMobile, a 26-foot bus designed by Ford Motor Company volunteers and funded by Humana.

ScrapmobileCredit: artsandscraps.org

Arts and Scraps is entrepreneurial, earning 60 percent of its expenses through program and product income. This makes the organization accountable to its clients rather than a few large funders. Sixty-four percent of the income is based on program fees, with private foundations, individuals, and corporations resulting for 21, 14 and one percent, respectively. Arts and Scraps also sells product online so that it can carry out its mission nationwide, which is to help kids think, create, and learn through the use of recycled industrial scraps.

Last year, Arts and Scraps’ income was $335,724.  Below is the breakdown:

Arts & Scraps income“There are many programs that are dependent upon our materials because it’s one where they can afford interesting things,” Upmeyer said. “For many programs, we are a staple. For some, we’re just that extra thing they couldn’t do otherwise. We’re always looking for more materials, and businesses do ship us things from around the country. So if anybody has anything that is small and interesting and would be easy to ship, we would certainly receive it and make good use of it.”

If you would like to donate to Arts and Scraps, click here.