With small beginnings in 2014, The Welman Project has grown from two friends running around asking for surplus materials from Fort Worth businesses and trying to find cheap or free warehouse space to being one of the most important resources for area teachers to stock their classrooms and to educate children in reuse while sparking imaginations.
The Welman Project has taken great strides in becoming a leader in sustainability in only four short years. The founders, Vanessa Barker and Taylor Willis, are highly motivated, energetic, intelligent and creative women who saw a need in Fort Worth and created a solution. Vanessa and Taylor lead a nonprofit that solves problems like waste and lack of resources and giving Fort Worth a more sustainable future.
With a mission to reuse resources that would be going into landfills, The Welman Project provides area teachers and classrooms with much needed surplus office furniture and equipment and arts and crafts supplies.
Through their NatureReach program, The Welman Project offers environmentally-themed artistic workshops for people of all ages. The Wellies, as they are known locally, also teach weekly classes in creative reuse and gardening in the Fort Worth ISD After School program, and produce an annual Recycled Art Contest and Exhibition involving more than 50 FWISD schools.
The Wellies also run a school supply drive for underprivileged children. Many volunteers, organizations, and businesses line up to assist with collection and delivery to children in need.
From Second Nomination
The Welman Project's motto is "Fill a classroom, not a landfill.” They collect surplus materials, furniture and more, from businesses and divert them to local teachers and schools. With a small volunteer group they have managed to channel a very large volume of materials destined for the landfill free of charge to local teachers and classrooms. They offer a massive Teacher Tailgate event at the start of the school year and regular hours every week for teachers to pick free materials, reducing business waste, landfill disposal and providing much needed supplies to schools.
They have created a conservation and reuse model that is benefiting schools and teaching the community and children lessons in creative reuse, sustainability and reducing waste. The founders Taylor Willis and Vanessa Barker founded the nonprofit and are volunteering full time, with the goal of building a lasting organization that will have a positive impact on waste reduction in North Texas for years to come. They have accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time.
Hundreds of manufacturer rejected pill cases have become paint palettes for kids, discarded bike inner tubes are used as bouncy bands to help students stay focused in class, and event leftovers are turning into science experiments. Recently they saved a semi truck full of compostable produce-shipping bowls that were about to be discarded, and have distributed them to more than 50 schools and nonprofits for use in gardens, cafeterias, and classrooms.
They are making a lasting impact on the community by teaching educators the importance of reuse and how they can implement it in their classroom, saving both landfill space and money. These innovative reuse concepts are passed along to students as they see for themselves the benefits of giving things a second life. In the past year they served more than 400 educators from 28 North Texas school districts, impacting over 15,000 students. They also produce an annual recycled art exhibit in the Fort Worth After School program, which this past year included teams of kids from 67 schools making art out of materials that would otherwise be trash. As part of the program, they learn about the effects of waste on our environment, and what they can do in their homes and schools to make a difference. The art is displayed around the community to increase awareness about the need for waste reduction. There was a fantastic display of beautiful art created at Bass Hall this spring.
They provide help, networking materials and community building support to local non-profits. Cofounder Taylor Willis is very generous with her time and talents, she built the website for the SaveLakeArlington campaign last year.