AUGUSTA — Eventually, most everything wears out or breaks, and that’s just fine with Sarah Miller.

Every year Bridging the Gap, the organization Miller works for, hosts e-waste collection events as a fundraiser, and the more people who drop their stuff off and make donations for the Warming Center, the better.

So, people like Joanne Gagnon, who brought an old printer from her Augusta home, and Peter Gagne of Belgrade — he collected a trailer load of computers, printers and a television from all the locations that Gagne & Son Concrete Block operates in Maine — were welcome at the disposal event at the Augusta Civic Center’s North Wing parking lot.

Each load carried with it a story, a slice of someone’s life told in part by the things they were parting with.

Blayne Frost brought an old television and some stereo equipment. He’d been to an e-waste event once before, about a decade ago. Now retired, he’s recently installed a new floor in the garage of his Augusta home and had to shift a lot of stuff to do it. The electronics didn’t make the cut of the things that were shifted back.

Pam Boissonneault looks forward to the event every year. Her husband had a lot of electronics, and in the last year or two she was able to bring “a boatload” of stuff for disposal. Now she’s been cleaning out the homes of her parents and her mother-in-law. This year, she had cell phones and hard drives to bring from her home in Chelsea.

“I’d rather have my electronics recycled the correct way and properly disposed of than ending up in a landfill and having bad things happen to the environment,” Boissonneault said.

Anthony Casoria brought a couple of computer monitors from Chelsea and a flat screen TV for disposal. The TV was a casualty of his granddaughter’s effort to wash it.

Mike Morin parted ways with a basic desktop computer Saturday that he brought from Manchester. The computer was the victim of an inevitable technology upgrade — 20 years ago.

“It’s been hanging around,” Morin said. “(I thought) one of these days, I’m going to throw that thing out, and here we are.”

Volunteers unload electronics from a pickup truck Saturday during an e-waste collection drive at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

For nearly four hours, people lined up, patiently waiting their turn so that volunteers could fill heavy-duty cardboard Gaylord boxes with their discarded items in exchange for a donation to help support the Warming Center.

Normally, Bridging the Gap, a nonprofit program of Emmanuel Lutheran Episcopal Church in Augusta, runs two e-waste collections every year as its major fundraising activity for the Warming Center. The center is open weekdays in the winter months to provide people with a safe and warm place to be. Last winter, the Warming Center counted about 500 sign-ins from about 125 people.

The center serves free coffee and offers information about community services like help with housing, employment and addiction.

The organization also runs Addie’s Attic Clothing Bank and the Basic Essentials Hygiene Pantry throughout the year.

Miller said when she first arrived at 8:15 a.m., Saturday someone was already in line. She had to leave briefly, but when she returned at 8:30 a.m., the line was already forming on Community Drive.

As she hustled back and forth — to set up an exit sign for drivers who weren’t sure where to go when relieved of their e-burdens or to check in with volunteers or do any one of the dozen or so things needing doing to keep the event on track — she also kept a weather eye on the line.

“Is it backed up to Civic Center Drive?” Miller said. “We’re trying to keep the line off Civic Center Drive.”

The thing about an e-waste disposal event is that you never know how it’s going to go. Saturday was Miller’s fourth event, and she’s learned a thing or two.

“It is different every time,” she said. “You never know, so you have to be ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”

This year upped the uncertainty factor. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, people across central Maine and nearly everywhere else on the planet, have been spending more time at home for the last six months, as public health restrictions closed businesses,  government offices and schools to in-person contact.

Also closed? Other e-waste events. Bridging the Gap generally holds two a year, but because of the coronavirus, the spring event was canceled.

“Everybody’s cleaning,” Bruce Jacobs said.

Jacobs owns Electronics End, an electronics waste disposal company in Brewer, which was collecting the discarded electronics on Saturday.

“Between the stimulus checks and the cleaning, we’re finding a lot more stuff coming in,” he said.

It appears that many people who received a relief check from the federal government used at least part of it to upgrade their home electronics, he said, which then drove the need to get rid of the old item.

Saturday’s haul included all makes and models of computer towers and screens, laptops, cell phones, televisions of all sizes and office equipment like old printers and photocopiers. Some items, judging from the dust layered on them, had been out of commission for a while.

“We do normally one to two tractor trailers per event, sometimes three,” he said.

Once the waste is collected, it’s sorted as required by state regulations and sent on to its next stop. The televisions, for instance, head to a factory in New Hampshire to be taken apart and processed, he said.

Normally, Miller said, the line forms early but clears out in the first hour or so. On Saturday, people came in a steady flow for nearly the entire four hours.

“I was stunned,” Miller said. “It didn’t stop.”

In the end, discared electronics filled the semi-trailer, a roll-off container and a flatbed trailer.

Saturday’s results were also stunning. Miller, who is the administrative director of Bridging the Gap, said more than $7,000 in donations were collected, which matches what the organization has collected in previous years during two events.

“I’m just so grateful for everyone’s generosity,” she said.

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