OUTLOOK - You've got to love what you do for a living.
Whether you're in the office, in the store, or out on location somewhere in the community, the act of carrying out your work in a place that you come to love is something that helps erode the idea of your work being, well, 'work'. When you love something, you end up becoming very, very good at it, and that's something that causes people to inevitably take notice.
Take Darren Rafoss of the Town of Outlook, for example.
The longtime staff member, who just returned to work after nearly two years of waiting for and then recovering from surgery that was needed to retain his daily quality of life, has seemingly done everything there is to do as far as being a part of Team Outlook, including spending years driving the garbage truck. After the repeated heavy lifting and the combined twisting and turning took a toll on his body over time and required the surgery and recovery, Rafoss returned to the job and found himself performing less strenuous tasks in the town's public works department.
Those tasks, however, have turned Darren into something of a 'Mr. Fix-It' and someone who can find value in almost anything.
These days, you'll typically find Rafoss out at the town landfill, where he performs what is becoming increasingly known in the riverside community as 'freecycling'. Speaking with Darren in his work shop on Friday, January 19, this reporter saw firsthand what takes up his daily work, as he recovers valuable recyclable material from the landfill site. In addition to separating materials that may hold value, he's also refurbishing small motors and bicycles that have been disposed of by people who originally thought that they were indeed throwing out 'junk'.
For example, this reporter's own curiosity ended up turning into outright envy when coming across a fully-boxed air hockey table that Rafoss had discovered after someone had decided to discard it in the landfill.
What's that infamous saying, again? 'One person's junk.....'? In any case, it fits.
According to the Town, after seeing what practices have worked best with other landfills, such goods that are cleaned, refurbished, and brought back to life again from the Outlook site will be offered for sale this coming spring, as well as make for contributions to local charitable organizations.
What's old is new again, and the Circle of Life continues.
Darren himself says he's working in order to help provide Outlook's part towards a more sustainable future.
"I'm out here to contribute to the Town's recycling program," he explained. "I'm fixing up lawnmowers, garden tractors, snowblowers, things like that."
As one of the more senior men on the town crew, Rafoss says he's glad to be back after recovering from back surgery. In his newer role, he's doing something that people know he's good at.
"It'll be 15 years this coming August," he said, when asked how long he's been working for the Town. "I started back up again in September because I was off for a year for back surgery. When I started with the Town back then, I was doing garbage pickup, and after my surgery, they started talking and decided this would be a good fit for me because I'm good with small engines and things like that."
Darren's work days will typically see him searching for new "projects" once he's completed this one or that one, which finds him staying pretty consistently busy, even in the wintertime.
"It can get busy for me, like if I get a bunch of light fixtures or things like that," he said. "Some days I might have to go back into town, especially if it's too cold out here. I manage to keep myself pretty busy. I'll go to the scrap pile, and if I find a cart, for example, I'll put wheels on it. I've also fixed up a generator for the Town because the carburetor was dirty. This afternoon, I'll be going to look at appliances and see if I can take the motors out of them, like washers and dryers."
Although there can be challenges that come with the job, such as those lulls where new things to work on are a little slow in coming in to him, Darren says there are things that are more visible - like the success of the Town's recycling program - and things that due to the winter climate, people might not see for themselves, such as the work being carried out by staff that's designed to ensure a worry-free everyday life for Outlook residents.
"A lot of people are happy that we're doing this recycling program and keeping down our scrap piles and everything," he said. "I don't think people see a lot right now, but in the spring and summer, they'll probably see a lot more as we become a lot more visible to them."
This newer position has been a little eye-opening for Rafoss, such as seeing what kind of things might be thrown out by people that he can actually take and refurbish. It's those people that he says help make the community stand out with their commitment to the town's recycling program.
Seeing how this reporter briefly interrupted his work, Darren was kind enough to walk The Outlook through his tasks for the day and explained what happens with the materials once he's eventually finished with them.
"I'm recycling light fixtures today; taking the ballasts out of them," he explained. "In a good wire, I strip the copper and then the Town can get money for both the copper and the ballasts. This stuff, too; (motioning to tall plastic cans containing materials) cords off of appliances, we can get money for that. All of this will be going to Saskatoon because they'll be taken to the metals place and scrap yard. It's making money for the Town, as well as the landfill, too. I've got about seven push mowers I'm fixing up, and these bikes over here on the wall. I'm still working on them; I can't even find tires for one of them. I think I'll be more busy in the spring and summer. People aren't bringing a lot of stuff out here when it's cold, and I don't blame them!"
Although Rafoss enjoys working on small engines, he's also got an eye for stripping an appliance of its parts and deciding what's worth keeping and what's destined to go back to the scrap pile.
"When it comes to engines on a lawnmower that aren't any good, I keep the recoils, gas tanks, mufflers, tires, blades," he said. "People will come out here and discard things into the scrap pile, and I just go out with the trailer I've got beside the shed and load it up."
Some of the discoveries that Darren makes in the landfill site have to be seen to be believed, such as that aforementioned air hockey table.
"I found four scooters - kits for them," he highlighted. "Some needed wheels and some needed a handlebar. I actually found that (unboxed air hockey table) on top of the cell and it's brand new; never been out of the box! You can't complain! It's amazing what you'll find sometimes!"