Light up a scholarship recipient's life

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Shelly Birkelo
Friday, December 27, 2013

JANESVILLE—Putting up Christmas decorations puts you in that festive, holiday spirit.

Taking them down isn't nearly as much fun.

Regardless of the drudgery, Christmas is over. It's time to put away those holiday decorations.

To make room, you might need to get rid of those mounds of tangled strings of holiday lights that just don't work anymore.

But don't just throw them away. Instead, take them to one of several collection bins at more than a half-dozen businesses throughout Rock County to benefit the Anna Schenker Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

Dave and Carole Schenker established the fund in 2007 in memory of their 17-year-old daughter, who died in a 2006 traffic crash.

Since then they've awarded five $1,000 scholarships, Dave said.

"She loved Christmas and the thought of paying it forward," he said of Anna, who had just finished her first semester at UW-Rock County before her accident.

Recycling the lights also helps the environment by getting rid of them in a safe, green, charitable way, Dave said.

Each year, new collection sites have been added and more lights are  collected.

"We take in over 3,000 pound of lights each year," he said.

Dave then sorts through the lights, removing hooks, garland and anything else before taking them to a recycling center. Profits go directly into the scholarship fund to honor Anna and show her commitment to education.

The program also accepts cords cut from appliances such as hair dryers, coffee makers and extension cords, plus copper tubing from propane tanks or heavy copper wire from people who take out their hot tubs, Dave said. Even aluminum cans are accepted.

Dave makes weekly pickups between Thanksgiving and the end of January. At other times of the year, people drop items off at the Schenker house or call the family for pickup, he said.

"It just keeps growing," Dave said.

For that, the Schenker family is grateful.

According to Dave, the goal is to have a perpetual scholarship in Anna's memory through the UW-Rock County Foundation, which supports more than 25 scholarships each year for students who attend the college.

The scholarship program, Dave said, offers encouragement and financial assistance for promising students such as Anna.

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