Lucie Smith: Making a difference
Lucie Smith has worked at the Oak Bluffs transfer station on Pennsylvania Avenue for more than 20 years. Her bright smile lights up her office window and she knows most customers by name. It's a job she began 10 years after coming to Edgartown from Vietnam 30 years ago, as the wife of Mike Smith. Standing alone in the small, sparse office at the dump, she weighs vehicles when they drive up with garbage, and after it's disposed of, she collects the fee.
collects donations. Photo by Ralph Stewart
When Ms. Smith first began working at the transfer station, she had no idea that her job would take on a larger meaning - not until the chance came for her to return for a visit to her native Ho Chi Minh City. She was overwhelmed by the poverty in which the Vietnamese children, especially the many orphans, lived, and she decided to do something to help. "I did not realize how much I had forgotten while living in the United States. When I returned home, the reality of daily life in Vietnam flooded my memory. I felt so bad because I really wanted to help, but I only make so much and I can only give so much away."
Gazing out the small window of her office, Ms. Smith says, "I work here at the transfer station, watching all the people throw out their recycling. So every day I began collecting all of the recyclables and bringing them home to sort out and turn in for the money."
Each day Ms. Smith would bring home two huge dumpsters full of recyclables. "I would work eight or nine hours at the dump, then come home with so much recycling and my husband and I would spend three to four hours sorting through it. We would not have dinner until eight or nine at night. It was not easy," she says, smiling.
Once a week Ms. Smith took the recyclables to a redemption center for cash. It was money she collected to donate to various organizations and orphanages when she made her yearly trip home to Vietnam. "I would come home and tell everyone who let me use their [recyclables] cans how much it was helping," she says. "I would tell them about the children and they would be so happy. I thought I was doing so great, raising money and relying on people and organizations [in Ho Chi Minh City] to show me what to do with it, but my donations were not going very far. I wanted to make a difference in people's lives, not just give them a bowl of rice or a fish."