A couple of years ago, Betsy Dassau, president of the new Cary Creative Center, was looking for a new direction.
She'd left her career in the printing industry and was thinking about venturing into the world of nonprofits. At the time, Dassau, a mom of three sons, attended Reuse Conex in Raleigh, a symposium focusing on groups that are interested in the reuse of products.
Dassau went on a field trip to The Scrap Exchange in Durham, which collects materials from businesses and individuals and distributes them at a retail store.
"It was a new experience for me," she said. "It just all clicked."
Dassau started volunteering at The Scrap Exchange and, eventually, began wondering if the Triangle might be big enough for another version of the popular reuse center. She spoke with folks at The Scrap Exchange, who supported her efforts.
The nonprofit Cary Creative Center, which is modeled after The Scrap Exchange, opened in March.
"Our goal is to keep materials out of the landfill and get them into the hands of creative people who can use them," said Dassau, an artist herself.
The center is a repository of all kinds of stuff - from stickers and pipe cleaners to hanging files, paper and other office materials. Individual donations have helped to fill up the warehouse. But so have major corporate donations, including Dassau's former employer when it closed its Apex operation and the locally owned high-end online invitation and stationary store Green Kangaroo (you'll find some beautiful note cards here).
For the crafty among us, you'll find all kinds of bits and pieces for projects and inspiration. For those of us with kids, you'll find plenty of things to keep the kids busy on a hot or rainy afternoon. For $5, the center lets customers fill up one of its silver reuse bags with items in the shop. There's a workspace where you can spread out and create while you're there.
The center also offers programs and classes starting at age 3.
Dassau gets excited about the pieces that people have created at the center - a bracelet made with a discarded ribbon and shell, a canvas for painting made from old newspapers. On a trash can at the center, a card says "think reuse twice before using this bin."
Dassau said anybody who has ever worn hand-me-down clothes or purchased antiques has reused items before. Just like your sister's jeans or Grandma's antique rocker, there are plenty of uses for old wine bottle corks and used hanging folders, she said.
"They just have to broaden their horizons and see other ways to reuse things," Dassau said.
The Cary Creative Center is here to help.
The center, 155 Wilkinson Ave. near downtown Cary, is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday.
For more information about programs, classes and donating to the center, watch my video interview with Dassau and go to the Cary Creative Center's website.