Welman Project Turns Discards into Classroom Treasures

Roughly 71 percent of materials discarded in the U.S. can be reused, the Welman Project of Fort Worth says.

A new Fort Worth nonprofit has a simple goal — to take the surplus materials businesses were going to discard and repurpose them in North Texas classrooms.

The brainchild of Vanessa Barker, The Welman Project became an official nonprofit in 2015 and since September 2016, it has reused roughly 76 dumpsters worth of material or about eight dumpsters worth of materials a month, according to the Fort Worth Business Press.

That’s roughly $7,000 worth of material a month that has ended up in classroom instead of landfills, the publication said.

Barker and her partner in the nonprofit, graphic artist Taylor Willis, have been best friends since childhood.

The nonprofit acts as a connector between the businesses that have surplus materials and the teachers and classroom that could put them to reuse — to be “a creative reuse resource for the community and the classroom.”


The Business Press said that the idea for the nonprofit came when Barker was working as a preschool teacher in New York and was participating in New York Fashion week. She told the publication that she saw a lot of gently used or even new materials going to waste.

She said that after the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, she gathered roughly 300 pounds of unused glitter and donated it to schools in the Manhattan area.

Her passion for donating the materials to schools was just a hobby, but as continued the work people in New York asked her what organization she was with, the Business Press said. She named the effort on the spot — The Welman Project.

“Shelley Welman is my birth mother … and the first thing that popped out of my head was Welman Project,” Barker told the Business Press.

Even though her her birth mother doesn’t participate in the project, Barker told the Business Press, “the idea of what she did for me to kind of give me a better home, a better life, is the spirit that lives on in the work that we do. I wanted to honor the selfless act and what she did for me and I think it aligns with what our mission is, which is to find a home for something that needs it.”

According to the Welman Project’s website, 71 percent of all waste generated in the U.S. is material that could be reused.

Their efforts are a big assist for teachers, many of whom buy materials for the classrooms with money from their own pockets.

“We are just that catchall of getting whatever companies want to get rid of and finding the right place to pass that along to.”
Taylor Willis

“Every company has stuff that they are throwing out because they don’t have the time or the resources to figure out what to do with it,” Willis said. “We are just that catchall of getting whatever companies want to get rid of and finding the right place to pass that along to.”

The Welman Project has donated to more than 100 Fort Worth area schools and organizations. It has worked with teachers from public elementary, middle, and high schools, along with area nonprofits and organizations such as The Warm Place, Fortress Youth Development and ACH Child Services, the Business Press reported.

“This project doesn’t work because of Taylor and myself,” Barker said. “This project works because literally everybody in our community is working on this project. A lot of people work for the Welman Project, they just don’t know it. It’s a movement, it’s a way of thinking.”

Dallas Innovates, every day

One quick signup, and you’ll be on the list.   
View previous emails.


R E A D   N E X T


  1. Andrew Siegel says:

    This a fantastic idea. ~10 years ago I was working at a Fortune 500 company that was in the process of relocating its headquarters. In doing so, all employees were ‘cleaning out’ their cubes and offices (some of whom had been in the same spot for >10 years) and throwing away old files and documentation – filling multple rolling dumpsters on a daily basis. It dawned on me that lots of that material – 3-ring binders, manilla folders, document clips, etc. – still had life in them. So with the approval of my boss (the CIO) and the support of a team of co-workers we filled a couple of un-used offices with supplies and then donated them all to North Dallas High School. Honestly I have no idea how much (if any $) is saved them, I was just glad that it had a chance and wouldn’t end up in a land-fill.

    The “Re-use” portion of “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” is the most under appreciated portion.

    Kudos to the Welman Project. I hope I have a chance to help in the future.