By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE - On one day, Nichole Rouse might be elbow-deep in bottle caps. On another, she might be sorting through arts and crafts supplies.
But no matter what she has at her center, it's always free to whoever wants it. And Ms. Rouse wouldn't want it any other way.
It's the main reason she opened the doors to the Treasure Coast Reuse Center. Located at a self-storage facility on Peacock Road in Port St. Lucie, it is a holding place for items that can be used again.
"Some things I place on Craigslist," she said. "But mostly they're donated to people who need it."
And the people who need it come by her center on a regular basis.
The 20-foot by 30-foot space is always full of unusual items, things others wouldn't normally want. But she learned no matter what it is, someone will take it.
"One time, I had a plastic drill case, and I thought, 'Who would want this?'" she said. "But then less than a week later, a man came in and told me he had been looking for something like this for a long time."
Ms. Rouse tries to educate those who come looking for free items about the importance of recycling and upcycling, where a person takes something that would normally go in the trash and makes it into something new.
"I collect bottle caps, soda tabs, packaging materials and potato chip bags and send them where they are turned into something else," she said.
She gets the largest response from artists and teachers, who comb through her inventory for craft supplies.
She opened her doors more than a year ago, in December 2010. She first operated out of two small units, and then moved into a larger space. The storage company leases to her at a reduced price, and the company Waste Pro donates money for her storage space.
Ms. Rouse sorts through items, preparing them to be given away. People who wish to drop something off or look for something specific can call for an appointment.
When she's not busy collecting items to give away, Ms. Rouse gives talks to various community groups about the importance of recycling and the changes it has made in her life.
"It's been really, really good to be a resource for people," she said. "I totally love what I do, and people can always use the education."
Appointments can be made by calling Ms. Rouse at (772) 344-2642 or go to her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/treasurecoastreusecenter.