Tim Kauffman parks his red pick-up truck in front of Grandview Church on Pleasure Road in Manheim Township on the first Sunday of the month.
And after every service, he leaves with a pile of trash.
Kauffman, a retired physical therapist and Army veteran known as “The Trash Man,” collects scrap metal from parishioners and neighbors. But rather than sending that “trash” to the landfill, Kauffman makes sure it gets recycled.
A recent load included everything from the shell of a clothes dryer to empty soup cans, along with a short, heavy sword and an anchor.
“We’re doing God’s work,” said Kauffman, a member of the church at 888 Pleasure Road in Grandview Heights, who sorts through the items, selling them to appropriate recyclers and donating the funds to the church.
He has raised $593.35 since he became “Trash Man” in June, recycling 4,502 pounds of metal. He says 25 pounds of copper, like copper pipes, can net $60 to $80.
The Rev. Andrea Brown, lead pastor at the Manheim Township church, says the benefits of Kauffman’s efforts are multi-faceted.
“Tim's idea of recycling metal works on so many levels: It raises money that will help restore a place devastated by storms. It supports a local business. It's good for the planet. It helps donors clean out their homes,” Brown said.
Grandview Church was formerly known as Grandview United Methodist Church, until it disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church in March because of its stance on homosexuality. Now, Grandview describes itself as a freestanding congregation that still has a “Methodist identity,” but is open and affirming to the LGBTQ community, according to a statement on its website.
Brown says Kauffman’s work helping the congregation and larger community recycle is true to the church’s beliefs.
“From a spiritual standpoint, we're to be planetary stewards,” Brown says. “Tim helps us to fulfill that spiritual mandate.”
An environmentalist heart
Kauffman's role as "trash man" began in June.
“It started as we were brainstorming about raising money for Puerto Rico for recovery from two hurricanes,” said Kauffman.
He does pickups at Grandview Church on the first Sunday of every month. But in between scheduled pickups, he takes calls from parishioners and community members for pickups; donating to the project has prompted people to clean out their garages and basements, he says.
People also just drop off items when they recognize his truck, parked in front of his home on McGrann Boulevard.
“There’s almost always something in there,” he said. “I have a big load now because someone replaced a boiler.”
Someone gave him a coffee can half full of brass keys that weighed about five pounds. That alone resulted in an $8.50 cash donation, as brass is worth $1.70 per pound.
“That’s a good return,” he said.
Kauffman learned about recycling when he was a Boy Scout, earning a Conservation Merit Badge when he was about 10 years old. He recently talked to Boy Scout Troop 102, which meets at Grandview Church, about holding a scrap metal drive.
“When my son, Ben, was a Boy Scout, we recycled about 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of paper at a paper mill, where they used water to emulsify the paper,” Kauffman says. “It’s cheaper to use recycled paper to make paper than to cut down trees.”
The passion for environmentalism runs in the family. Kauffman’s daughter, Emily West, of East Petersburg, worked for the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority until recently, working in environmental compliance for recycling.
“They’re doing a fantastic job,” he said of LCSWMA. “Lancaster County has no idea how good they are. Their business operation is for the benefit of this community, and they’ve given so much back to this community.”
“Salvaging is making money, and it’s conserving energy,” he said. “But it’s so good that (scrap metal) is not going into the landfill. Reusing is so much better than mining.”
Before his life as Grandview’s “Trash Man,” Kauffman worked as a physical therapist from 1970 until 2018, most recently at the former Kauffman Physical Therapy Clinic, 804 New Holland Ave.
When Kauffman was a boy, he wanted to be a professional baseball player, but he injured his shoulder playing football for McCaskey High School. That’s when he first thought about becoming a physical therapist.
While Kauffman has closed his practice, he is far from retired. He recently spoke at the annual conference of the Physical Therapy Association in Wichita, Kansas, and he was the lead author of the third edition of “A Comprehensive Guide to Geriatric Rehabilitation,” published in 2014.
Kauffman served in the Army for nearly 40 years, including 6 on active duty. That experience plays into his relationship with Grandview, too; the veteran wrote a military history of Grandview Church and is now working on a military history of the Physical Therapy Association, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
He’s well-traveled, but he’s humble, too. In 1999, Kauffman taught in Suriname in South America while working with Health Volunteers Overseas, returning in 2003, 2007 and 2009. He keeps in touch.
“I’ve lectured around the world – in Japan, Ireland, England, Australia,” he said. “And here I’m collecting trash because of my environmental views.”
Brown, Grandview’s pastor, says she’s grateful for that.
“It's like the sound of tin cans tied to a couple's bumper after a wedding or the sound of a brass quartet playing a fanfare,” Brown says. “It's the sound of celebration. Trash becomes cash for two worthy causes: people and planet. What's not to love?”