Corona del Mar Today: Youngster’s business puts Earth first

Harbor View student Vanis Buckholz with his trailer full of recyclables he pulls on his bike.
(Amy Senk, Daily Pilot)

Vanis Buckholz walks into the OASIS Senior Center, waving hello and being greeted like the regular he is.

But at 10 years old, Vanis’ visit is strictly business.

As founder and president and head picker of the Re “Cycle” er recycling business, Vanis stops at the OASIS center several times each week, picking up plastic water bottles and loading them into a bicycle trailer he recently received as a birthday gift.

“I just think it’s wonderful,” said Celeste Jardine-Haug, director of the OASIS center. “There’s not that many young people who think about doing this. We just love it. We think he’s the most wonderful child.”

Vanis was 7 years old and in second grade when he first learned about Earth Day at school. The business was born.

“They were challenged to make a difference in their own way, any small way,” said his father, Dave Buckholz. “He said, ‘Why not just recycle?’ And I said, ‘Fine, that’s easy enough.’ Then it went to the neighbors, then it went to friends, then it went to businesses.”

In the beginning, Vanis would ride his scooter around his Flower Streets neighborhood, loading recyclable litter into a plastic shopping bag he hung over his handlebars. When he got a bike for his ninth birthday, he was able to cruise farther from home and collect more. The trailer allows him to go even farther, always wearing his protective safety vest as he cycles through his collection sites.

Neighbors and friends also drop off items in the back alley behind the Buckholz home, where Vanis keeps about a dozen big plastic and metal bins. He sorts items — glass, cans, plastics, metals — and at times, the items are stacked above his head.

Every few weeks, the Buckholz family drops a truckload of recyclables at OC Recycling in Santa Ana, where he earns between $100 and $200 a visit.

Vanis and his family track his expenses and income carefully, taking 25% to cover costs, such as garbage bags, containers, hand sanitizers and bungee cords.

“I give another 25% to Project Hope,” Vanis said.

Project Hope Alliance is a nonprofit in Anaheim that helps homeless children. His mother, Evie Buckholz, said he has donated about $1,000 to the organization to date.

Vanis spends some of the money during family vacations or for treats, but most goes into a long-term savings.

“I’m saving for a sports car,” he said.

Growing the business took a lot of courage, Vanis said.

When he first approached businesses, such as Bandera or the Place, to ask about collecting their recyclables, his parents waited outside while he went in, introduced himself and made his pitch.

Other accounts were pure luck. Bo Glover, executive director of the Newport Beach Environmental Nature Center, spotted him and asked what he was doing. Now the ENC is one of Vanis’ clients.

“He’s a very ambitious kid,” Glover wrote in an email.

The business continued to grow, Vanis said.

“It just got bigger and bigger,” he said.

During the summer months, Vanis said he’ll spend two to three hours a day, riding his bike, collecting and sorting items.

When school begins, he’ll cut back but continue to work on the business.

“There’s no stopping him,” his father said, watching him bicycle away, bottles nearly overflowing. “We’re so very proud.”


Don Burns swim

Hundreds of swimmers participated in the annual Don Burns swim last weekend off Big Corona State Beach.

The first place overall swimmer was Robert Margalis with a time of 17:23, and the first female overall swimmer was Cynthia Lewis, with a time of 18:13.

A total of 279 swimmers checked in, and 265 swimmers finished the 1-mile course, organizers said.

Don Burns was a beloved Newport Beach lifeguard, instructor and cadet coordinator from 1956 until 1993; he died 19 years ago.

Beyond being a lifeguard, Burns played football at USC, was a teacher and coach for more than 30 years at Newport Harbor, Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools. He was Mesa’s first varsity football coach, and he crewed on the famous catamaran Polycon in the Transpacific Yacht race twice for Los Angeles to Honolulu.


PTA, PFO meetings

Newport-Mesa Unified School District students will return to campus soon, and parents will have a chance to attend PTA and PFO meetings as well.

The Corona del Mar High and middle schools will hold a general PTA meeting in the small gym at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Harbor View Elementary School’s Parent Faculty Organization will hold its first meeting of the school year after Flag Deck on Sept. 12 in the school’s multipurpose room. Lincoln Elementary School’s PTA will hold its first meeting at 8 a.m. Sept. 19 in the school’s library.

Twitter: @coronadelmartdy