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RUSSELL COUNTY HEROES: Recycling efforts, cancer survival make a hero
In May 3 issue, Russell County News
By Nathalie Rosado
Russell County News Intern

Vickie Blakey says she became environmentally aware 10 years ago, and hasn’t stopped since.

Her efforts were noticed by residents of the county after she took over the Russell County High School environmental science class this spring.

Blakey retired last year, after teaching history at Russell County High School for many years, but she came back for the second semester of this school year to teach when one of the science teachers suddenly had to leave.

“They called me right before school started in January, and I took the job as a substitute teacher, so I can only teach for 130 days. Many people ask me if I get paid much to do what I do, but I tell them I do it because it’s a real-life issue that I feel strongly about,” she said.

Blakey said that it began when she first started teaching and supplies were very limited. She consistently reused classroom supplies, and admitted that many people made fun of her, thinking she was going overboard.

“When I saved old printer paper, everyone laughed, but as soon as the school ran out of supplies, I was the first person they came to.”

About six years ago, Blakey got involved with Box Tops, which she cuts off of food products and sends to the Sun Valley Indian School in Sun Valley, Arizona.

“Box Tops are a quick and easy way to donate money to those who need it. My donations to the Sun Valley School help buy school supplies to benefit the students that learn there.”

Blakey says she encourages people to find a charity that will take Box Tops, or to donate them to their school.

Two years ago, Blakey said she began to save plastic Walmart and Kroger bags, which is something she’s encouraged her environmental science class to do.

After she helped her one of her environmental science students write an article about recycling plastic bags and using reusable bags to shop, Blakey said Kroger ran out of their reusable bags.

“It’s amazing to see what one voice can do to inspire others. I truly believe that along with the RCHS Pride Club, we’ve made a huge impact on our school.”

When the Pride Club got a grant to buy recycling bins this summer, Blakey said that recycling activity increased and many people got involved.

“We were emptying about four trash bags full of plastic bottles and a huge bin full of paper,” she said.

Blakey says she believes that the biggest way to get people involved in recycling is to make it easy and convenient.

“The main reason I’ve seen keep people from recycling is the location of the recycling center. Just like we proved in our school, having recycling bins nearby is the best way to get people involved.”

She says she hopes Russell County residents will contact county and state officials to urge them to encourage recycling in the county.

When she began to teach the class, Blakey said she had mixed feelings.
“I’m very proud of my students and what they have done, but it is very easy to be discouraged when things don’t go as planned. We don’t always get the support we need, but I have been very surprised with the encouragement we’ve received from local residents and businesses.”

Although recycling might seem like a hassle, Blakey says it’s easy to get involved.

“Recycling is about habit. People should start out with one item and start putting it into a common area. They should do it often and get used to not throwing it away.”

She says she started out with paper, but now recycles cardboard, tin cans, plastic, and glass at home.

Since she started teaching, Blakey says she has pushed for the school board to allow the class to take field trips, and two have already been taken.

“We have visited the Lexington-Fayette County Recycling Center and Play-Mart in Somerset, which makes commercial playground equipment from recycled plastic.”

Blakey said she believed both of these trips were eye-opening experiences that summarized the effects of recycling and its impact on the environment.

Besides being an active environmentalist, Blakey is also a cancer survivor.

In 2003, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but since it was at stage “0”, she managed to take treatment pills to keep it from spreading.
“In October I will go for my five year checkup, where I’ll find out if I’m completely cancer-free.”

Blakey said having cancer was a learning experience, and she became strongly involved with the American Cancer Society, where she is a volunteer counselor who helps ladies cope with the challenges that breast cancer brings.

She said she strongly encourages people to get involved with Relay for Life events, and believes that seeing the effects of cancer will make people appreciate the healthy lives they lead.

“We’ve got to appreciate and take care of all of the gifts we’ve been given, whether it’s the earth or simply good health.”

Blakey says she is surprised with all of the phone calls she has gotten at school from residents who want to start recycling. To get in touch with Blakey, she said she would gladly take any calls at 270-343-2824 regarding recycling or the American Cancer Society.

“We’ve got to protect our environment. If not for us, then for our children, who will be affected in the future by what we’ve done in the present.”
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