Patriotism was expressed in many different ways during the 4th of July weekend: parades, concerts, fireworks. But a special brand of patriotism was practiced at ReUse Depot, a stone’s throw west of Forest Park on Madison Street. The brainchild of Bill Grier, a Vietnam-era vet and employee of the sprawling reusable building material center, and with the help of Boy Scouts from Forest Park, they created a huge wooden American flag, now on permanent display in front of the facility.
Bill had a simple reason for starting the project.
“I love America,” he said. “We get a bit dysfunctional sometimes. But I wanted to put up something that shows we’re united. The flag is not a political statement. It says this is still America. I love the red, white and blue.”
It was even more meaningful for Bill to construct the flag with re-used products. He nailed together 12-foot boards and the Boy Scouts painted them red and white. They made sure to have the flag up on Madison Street in time for the 4th.
The flag may be a symbol of patriotism, but the facility is a tangible expression of the American spirit. It has 25,000 square feet of rebuilding materials. We used to talk about the American can-do spirit. It’s on full display at ReUse Depot, where everyone from artists to homeowners utilize doors, windows, light fixtures, etc. and keep them from being buried in a landfill.
The company was started by Kyle FitzGerald, who cares deeply about the Maywood community and its neighbors. For example, Bill worked with kids from Proviso Partners for Health to construct two long greenhouses along the west side of the building. These were high school-age kids being introduced to gardening.
“Kids today don’t know how fresh fruits and vegetables taste,” Bill said, “We teach them how to grow healthy food. We want to cut down on obesity and diabetes.” He noted that Maywood is considered a “food desert.” He’s seen a decline in families preparing home-cooked meals and gathering around tables for a family dinner.
Bill would have none of that when he was raising his kids. He also grows a garden and raises chickens at his Leyden Township home. The former combat engineer has a degree in Sustainable Agricultural Technology. Working at ReUse Depot is a perfect fit for him.
The facility obtains its reusable treasures through OBI Deconstruction. For over 30 years, this company has been salvaging materials from renovations and teardowns. Their headquarters are also at 50 W. Madison St. The facility is not only a beehive of activity, it has an actual beehive. The building was formerly occupied by a printing company but it has patriotic origins: It first served as a National Guard armory.
When FitzGerald bought it, it didn’t have power, or running water, but it is now a well-ordered warehouse, surrounded by a lumber yard. FitzGerald has not only partnered with groups from Maywood, he has plans to allow Opportunity Knocks to grow their Knockout Pickles on the property.
So here’s a shout-out to Bill, Kyle, Katie and all the good people at ReUse Depot. We must also thank Boy Scouts Keegan and Peyton Brown, Donovan Wasilevich and Thomas Winniki. They took time out on a beautiful summer day to paint the symbol that reminds us we are all one.
During this election season, we need this brand of patriotism more than ever.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.