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A way out, a hand up, a clean sweep

"A way out, a hand up, a clean sweep" Continued...

Issue: "Effective Compassion," Sept. 1, 2007

Booker dreamed of opening her own catering business, since cooking had always been her favorite activity. She took A Hand Up's classes on budgeting, resumé writing, public speaking, and interviewing. A volunteer taught her how to get a business license and liability insurance. She said everyone in the program encouraged her to pursue her dream: "After you've had a drug problem for so long, you feel like you can't do anything."

Now Booker owns and operates Angelouise Confection and Catering, while holding down another job two days a week making hot sandwiches at the local Panera Bread. Besides owning her own home, she has also worked and paid for her first vehicle. She said she owes it all to God and the help she received from A Hand Up for Women: "It's a program that will help you get your life back on track and make you the best woman God wants you to be."

EARTH KEEPER INITIATIVE

One more return finalist is at home not on mean streets but among dense forests, gentle streams, and Great Lakes: Michigan's Upper Peninsula is an ideal location for a project like the Earth Keeper Initiative. The purpose of the Marquette-based program is to teach people to care for the environment. It also exposes them to a wide range of religious beliefs.

Under the auspices of the Cedar Tree Institute, the initiative includes 144 congregations from nine religious groups-Catholic, Episcopalian, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian Church USA, as well as Reform Judaism, Zen Buddhist, Baha'i, and Unitarian Universalist. This year's big event was the Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep for Earth Day, April 22. Earth Keeper volunteers teamed up with the Superior Watershed Partnership, a neighboring nonprofit, to coordinate and carry out the event.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which partly funds the Earth Keeper Initiative, notes that traces of pharmaceuticals can end up in rivers, lakes, and even drinking water if they are just flushed or drained away. Earth Keeper gave people an alternative way to dispose of these drugs, some of which are controlled substances. More than 400 volunteers established collection sites at 19 area churches, where pharmacists and police officers were on hand to gather the pharmaceuticals.

Nearly 2,000 residents dropped off their unwanted painkillers, sleeping pills, syringes, and antibiotics, as well as personal care items like shampoo and lotions. One woman brought antique bottles of medicine, some more than 100 years old, from her father's old pharmacy. Volunteers collected just over a ton of pharmaceuticals, and staffers took them to an EPA-licensed incinerator outside St. Louis, Missouri.

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