Not too many people plan to make a career out of cleaning up others’ junk and then giving away the profits, but then not too many people are as good-hearted as Willis Goerzen of rural Goessel.
Goerzen, a licensed heating and air-conditioning mechanic, and part-time van-driver for Bethesda Home, collects and takes apart air conditioners, dehumidifiers, or anything not in working order that might have aluminum, copper, or other metals of value inside.
“I worked with these things for years and years,” Goerzen said. “If anyone knows this kind of stuff inside and out, I do. I’ve actually been trying to retire from the business of installation for 14 years, but people just won’t let me.”
When he is not helping someone with an HVAC project, Goerzen, 82, is probably out in his backyard shed along K-15 highway south of Goessel; taking apart the very equipment he spent years installing.
“I take it all apart and clean it up,” Goerzen said. “I take out the copper, wire, compressor, and coils. I cut off metal ends, burn insulation of electrical wire, and cut apart anything that has aluminum in it. It takes a lot of time.”
Goerzen said if he kept track of his time, it would not make sense for him to do what he is doing.
“I’m retired so I don’t count my time,” he said. “It’s just something I enjoy doing and people seem to appreciate the service of getting their junk cleaned up.”
Goerzen said it took him about four or five months to put together a load of scrap to haul to town for sale.
“The last load I took in weighed about 1,400 pounds,” he said. “It contained parts from about 15 air conditioners, six or seven dehumidifiers, two or three big barrels of aluminum, and maybe 24 to 26 batteries.”
For his efforts, Goerzen said he got about $1,200 for the load, all of which he donated to Mennonite Central Committee for their meat canning project.
“I donate all my time, labor, gas, everything,” he said. “I don’t keep a penny for myself. I do this so I can help others.”
Goerzen said he chose to give his profits to MCC because a young man from his church, Tabor Mennonite Church, was on the current meat-canning crew.
Much of his scrap comes from members of his church, as well.
“I advertised in the church bulletin and newsletter, and people call me up to see if I want what they are done with,” he said. “Batteries, motors, screen doors, you name it, I can pretty much find something valuable in it to recycle for scrap.”
Goerzen said he delivers his cleaned-up scrap loads to a business near First Street in Newton.
“I used to go all the way to Wichita, but they matched my price,” he said. “I take a load in fall and spring. I might work on this four to six hours a day or I might go a whole week and not work on it. It is just something I do as I can.”
Goerzen said he used a tractor with a lift and a platform to move heavier pieces of scrap, but mostly just cut things apart by hand.
“I’m just helping people clean up what they don’t want anymore and donating the profits to charity,” he said.