When news spread that 10-year-old Decari Roberts of Champaign, Illinois, was shot and hospitalized as a result, many people in the community united to offer donations and support to the boy and his family—including Mack’s Twin City Recycling of Urbana, Illinois.
According to a report from The News-Gazette newspaper, Champaign, about the incident, Decari was “hit twice, suffering two life-threatening gunshot wounds” at his home Dec. 2, 2019, and was “rushed to a local hospital for surgery.”
Investigators told The News-Gazette that they did not think Decari was targeted.
After hearing about this incident, Corey Mathis, operations manager at Mack’s Twin City Recycling, says he decided to help Decari and the Roberts family through Mack’s Twin City Recycling’s Recycling for a Cause donation program. The company launched the donation program a little more than a year ago, picking a local charity to donate to monthly. Through the donation program, customers can choose to donate the money they would have gotten for their scrap metal to the cause, and Mack’s Twin City Recycling then matches the donation.
While the company typically selects local nonprofits to donate to, Mathis says Mack’s “loosened up the rules” to help Decari and the Roberts family after he heard about the incident in the local news. In early December 2019, Mathis posted on the company’s social media pages to encourage its followers to consider donating scrap metal in honor of Decari and his family. It was also promoted on radio.
“My phone was constantly going off with messages and questions about it,” he says. “We had a lot of new customers come in specifically to give to that [cause]. Some people just gave their scrap ticket, but other people have just given cash, knowing that we can get the money to the family.”
Most months, Mack’s Twin City Recycling receives about $150 from customers for its Recycling for a Cause program. Mathis says the company received more than double that amount for Decari’s cause. He estimates that about 90 customers made donations in December 2019. At the end of that month, Mack’s Twin City Recycling donated about $1,200 to help Decari. The company also invited Decari and his mother to visit the yard after he was released from the hospital in late December.
Mathis adds, “They were extremely grateful, blown away by not just us but all the donations they received from people around town.”
A history of community connections
Connecting with the community is an important aspect of business for Mack’s Twin City Recycling, and that was part of the reason the company launched its Recycling for a Cause charity.
“We’ve always had a community-first focus,” Mathis says. “About a year ago, we had the discussion of, ‘How can we do more?’ because we really value our community. You make a lot of friendships when you have the same customers coming in every couple of days. It’s a close bond.
“We help with [charities] because we see the benefit in our community,” he adds. “I know a lot of people say helping with that is good advertising. But that’s not really why we started the program. We honestly went into it trying to benefit our community just because we’ve been a local company here so long, and we want to see people do well who have supported us. We take every opportunity to help our local charities and families we can.”
While the monthly donation program is newer, Mack’s has been making close connections with the people in Urbana since the business launched in 1950. Mathis’ family started the company as an auto parts business, eventually adding a scrap metal recycling yard.
Mathis says his great-grandfather grew the business mostly by word of mouth, and both his grandfather and father have continued the business in a similar manner.
Even today, Mathis says at least half of the company’s customers are recurring visitors. “I would say maybe half of the people who come in, we know their name, and our staff knows what their trucks look like and we have their names on their tickets before they come in.”
Mack’s Twin City Recycling collects primarily steel, iron, tin, copper, brass, aluminum and stainless steel. Mathis says the company handles some electronics. It also collects cardboard; however, Mathis says Mack’s stopped collecting cardboard temporarily after a fire in the fall of 2019. He adds that the company plans to start recycling cardboard again in a new facility on site sometime this year.
“We had a lithium-ion battery on a shelf explode and catch on fire overnight, and it happened to be in the building where we process cardboard,” he says. “We haven’t quite figured out how it happened, but it’s on camera.”
Whenever Mack’s experiences a fire or something similar that might concern community members, Mathis says he typically connects with local media to share the company’s perspective. He adds that he and others with the company are involved on a local community Facebook page to gauge if community members are concerned about things with the yard or things happening in town. He will sometimes post the company’s perspective on that page if anything being discussed on the forum pertains to Mack’s Twin City Recycling.
“We want to make sure our customers are doing OK,” Mathis says. “That also gives us a feeler of what the community’s talking about. The page gives us an opportunity to make an official notice. We can say, ‘Hey, we saw this was a hot topic, here’s what we’re doing about it,’ and we can get information out fast” to the community.
Getting face time with local news outlets
In addition to keeping tabs on the local community’s Facebook group, Mathis says Mack’s Twin City Recycling also will connect regularly with local media outlets to maintain a positive image in the community. He says Mack’s regularly has been making commercials for TV and radio to share in local news outlets for about the past 20 years.
Mathis recalls watching his dad, Ken Mathis, make TV commercials for the yard when he was a kid. “I thought it was really cool back then.”
He says the company still connects with local radio stations on advertisements for the scrap yard a few times a month. The goal for the radio and TV ads are to point people to the company’s website and the yard, Mathis adds.
“We’ve worked with our local news stations here for a long time,” he says. “And as far as radio goes, there’s an AM station we’ve worked with for a very long time. It’s worth taking time to connect with them. Even if you don’t advertise with a station, it’s worth listening to them to see if there’s any way they can help you and building relationships with those people over the years.”