One man’s trash is another man’s charity, or that’s how 90-year-old Bob Gwidt sees it anyway.
Every Monday through Saturday, Bob starts his day by collecting scrap metal from around his hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. He doesn’t just go junking for fun. As the name of his organization states, he goes Junkin’ for Kids.
Over the last 14 years, Bob Gwidt has raised more than $130,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network, all from recycling scrap metal.
It all started in 1990, when Gwidt heard that a local school was trying to raise funds to buy new computers for students. He had the bright idea to take the metal cans left over from church picnics and Bingo nights and exchange them for cash. Matched by a local business, Gwidt was able to help raise $3,500 for the school — enough to buy new computers for their classrooms. Gwidt has been hooked on doing good ever since.
Gwidt kept collecting cans for donations until 2003, when the bus company he later worked for started pitching in scrap metal to support his cause. Since then, he’s been collecting discarded parts from Wausau companies like NAPA Auto Parts. He then brings the parts to Yaeger’s Auto Salvage in Weston, where he personally sorts each piece into five separate bins based on how much cash they’ll return.
“The most common things I see are shocks, struts and the like,” says Gwidt. “Every once in a while, though, there is something like an antique cranberry rake, a fruit press for wine making or an old medical scale. I like to sell those special finds to get more donation money than I would from the salvage bin.”
Sounds like hard work, but Gwidt doesn’t seem to mind. For him, it’s a great way to keep in shape, both mentally and physically. And more importantly, it’s for a good cause.
That’s not all Bob does for the kids. In fact, he supports seven Wausau schools with his hot lunch shortfall project, dedicating a portion of his funds from scrap metal to ensure that no student goes without lunch. He has also encouraged his children and grandchildren to volunteer their time with Junkin’ for Kids and other fundraising efforts.
It’s no wonder that Gwidt is a Jefferson Award winner, or that he was named Citizen of the Year by the Wausau South Area Business Association in both 1988 and 2015.
So far, Gwidt has collected more than 5 million pounds of metal for charity — and he’s not stopping anytime soon.
“You can do so little to accomplish so much,” he says. “I always say it’s all for the kids.”
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