Like death and taxes, one of life’s universal givens is that one day, you’ll be tasked to clear out your elderly parent’s home.
So it was with Lynn Helbling Sirinek, who cleared out her mother-in-law’s home after she passed away. “She was a knitter and a seamstress,” Sirinek, a Woodhaven Drive resident, explains. “There were so many beautiful things of hers I couldn’t bear to toss out; I needed to put them to good use somehow.”
A retired nonprofit executive with Family Hospice and Palliative Care, and prior to that, with the RAND Corporation, Sirinek and her late husband, Larry, both grew up in Mt. Lebanon, met in Columbus, Ohio, lived there for 25 years, and returned to Mt. Lebanon in 2002. Sirinek has four grown children and two grandchildren.
While at Family Hospice, Sirinek took note of a place Hospice residents’ families often donated well-cared-for fabric and similar items, and promptly brought several boxes to the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse in the East End.
A Treasure Island for seekers of the unique and the vintage, teachers, artists-at-heart or by profession, Creative Reuse occupies 4,200 square feet in back of the Construction Junction building on the N. Lexington Avenue side. Not just for sewists, (though it has a large section of fabric, yarn, old patterns, and notions) it carries a vast number of supplies for DIY’ers, and “maker” fans of all kinds. “There is no other place in Pittsburgh quite like it,” says Sirinek, who became a volunteer in the fabric section. She saw an online listing looking for board members, applied, and was elected to the board in 2019.
As it happens, Creative Reuse was founded in 2007 by a former Mt. Lebanon resident, Faye Miller, who started it with her friend Rachel Dennis, and the help of a Sprout Fund “Seed” Award.
Kim Fox of Academy Avenue, a designer/maker, is a big fan of Creative Reuse. “I have always used found objects in my work, but they’ve taken that option to a whole new level,” says Fox, whose creations can be found at her business website, workerbird.com, on Etsy.com, and at Handmade Arcade during the Christmas holidays.
“It’s like a Goodwill focused solely on creativity; I don’t have to wade through old toasters and golf equipment to get to the good stuff!” The array of materials, she says, “inspires me to try something new simply because I’m seeing junk in a whole new light.”
In 2018, 13,000 participants—parents, teachers, youth leaders, library groups, nonprofits and activity directors—booked them to run creative and environmentally conscious programming for art and birthday parties, in schools, for library groups and nonprofits.
One of their biggest draws, says Ash Andrews, Creative Reuse’s executive director, is their Educator Programs for teachers. Education specialists show teachers new ways to include environmental, maker, STEAM, and art-focused learning experiences into their curriculum or programs.
Creative Reuse can also provide speakers on reuse and repurposing, and contract with businesses to pick up certain types of still-usable materials. To learn more, visit pccr.org.
Beyond the important environmental benefits of reuse (i.e. keeping stuff out of landfills) Andrews finds reuse has important benefits for everyone. “We truly believe that reuse has the power to transform lives and our world. Reuse is a vehicle for boosting self-confidence, learning new skills, and creating opportunity for all. Communities are stronger when reuse education is made a priority.”
Sirinek’s role as a volunteer and a board member has her evaluating long ingrained habits in a consumer-driven culture such as ours. “My involvement with Creative Reuse has made me consider my own behavior: when thinking about buying something, I ask myself: do I really need it, could I borrow it, or could I purchase it used? It’s broadened my thinking in how I can do better in reusing what I have. For instance, can I take my own leftovers container into a restaurant?”
That’s a brilliant idea you can take to your favorite dining spot. You won’t miss those take out containers multiplying like rabbits in your cupboards.
Location: 214 N. Lexington Avenue. Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
Annual Donations: 50 to 60 tons
Annual income from donation sales: 60%
Annual income from programs: 13%
Employees and volunteers: 12 employees, 50 volunteers
Fun Fact: A new sports bar owner called from Minnesota, needing trophies to display for his grand opening. Creative Reuse sent them two dozen.
Don’t Miss: Their bulk section, where one price per bag size, S/M/L takes all; BOGO sales on paper, jewelry, beads, and the annual fabric sale.
All loosely organized by type and department
- black and white and color family, school portrait, candid and vintage photos
- frames, posters, old postcards, old greeting cards, odd pieces of stationery, boards, and maps
- magazines, color calendars, address books
- office supplies, containers, vintage machines (typewriters, projectors)
- natural items (seashells, rocks).
- craft kits and craft supplies
- traditional art supplies
- costume jewelry, pins
- jewelry making materials
- ornaments, holiday decorations
- ceramics and glass (including vases and stained glass)
- old kitchen items, vintage cookie cutters
- books (art & craft or DIY only)
- bins of plastic barnyard animals, and plastic fruit and vegetables
- a 50-gallon drum of used wine corks
- rolls from old player pianos, sheet music
- old photographic equipment
- old trophies, medals from competition
- parts to build a robot bird
- party decorations
- a picture of a bullfighter
- something labelled “science waffles”
- science equipment, old test tubes
- sewing notions, zippers, buttons, glue guns, felt, quilt batting
- bolts of fabric, yarn of all colors and sizes