Luckily, in Acadiana, you have a chance to get rid of your extra Mardi Gras beads while supporting recycling and a local nonprofit organization. Enter LARC, whose mission is to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in reaching their goals of self-sufficiency, quality of life and self-worth.
LARC's services include community support, vocational and residential services. Plus, they operate Acadian Village, a Lafayette Christmas tradition slash photoshoot spot slash adorably cute wedding venue. And they operate Beads N More.
The Beads N More shop does more than just sell brand new beads to float riders and Mardi Gras krewes. For more than 15 years, LARC has collected donated Mardi Gras beads and recycled and repackaged them for resale. That's a lot of "re"s, but that's good, because it means that Mardi Gras beads can be reused for years upon years, instead of getting thrown away after one parade.
The work of recycling and reselling Mardi Gras beads is a year-round one, Beads N More Manager Carthy Guillet explained to me. All Acadiana Goodwill locations accept bead donations throughout the year, through a partnership with LARC.
In addition, LARC operates a trailer in the Youngsville, Carencro and Scott parades; sets up a truck for donations at Cajun Field in Lafayette; works with Downtown Lafayette to collect beads in the six-foot wire Y; has collection points at all branches of the Lafayette Public Library for the time-being; and receives donations from many area schools who set up drives.
|The wire Y in Downtown Lafayette collected beads until last weekend for donation to LARC.|
When the donations arrive the Beads N More shop next to Acadian Village, the real work begins. On average, 30 LARC individuals have jobs sorting, measuring and packaging the tons and tons of beads.
|Photo courtesy: Carthy Guillet, LARC|
There were about 15 workers there when I visited, and they put the biggest smile on my face. They were extremely proud to show both Carthy and me what they were working on, and what they had accomplished so far. One worker found some gold beads with a BOSS nameplate on them, and he announced to us that he was now the boss for the day.
The beads are measured by size and sometimes color, then bundled into a dozen of the same size and length. They are then bagged according to specific size. The sizes range from 33" length to 72" length. The shop is open all year long, so you're not limited to when you can shop for recycled beads.
In addition to the beads, Carthy says that the Mardi Gras grab bags are extremely popular. They can contain anything from cups to frisbees to stuffed animals, to other prizes.
In the Beads N More shop, you can find a smaller selection of new beads, but the recycled beads are the highlight and the biggest seller (as they should be!). There's a selection of specialty beads (the kee-yaw catches...yes I just made that up) and other necessities like baseball caps and bags.
I visited Beads N More less than one week after Mardi Gras, and the shelves were noticeably empty - and ready to hold the bags of newly donated beads.
As the workers fill up the bags, the shelves are stocked, and when they're full, there's a whole warehouse dedicated to holding more beads.
As we walked through, I truly realized just HOW MANY Mardi Gras beads exist in this world. Even when their stock is low, there's still a ton of beads in view. I can't even imagine how many strands of beads are in the warehouse on a full day - and this is just some of the beads thrown in one city. Carthy explained that they received 2 1/2 of these boxfuls (gaylords are the real term) from the Youngsville parade, two from the Carencro parade and one from the Scott parade.
Multiply the stock by Baton Rouge and New Orleans and other major Mardi Gras cities, and you'll realize just why it's so important that we donate and recycle as many beads as we can. There's already literally millions in existence - we do NOT need to add more new beads to the mix.
One interesting fact Carthy shared with me is that LARC and Acadian Village were not immune to the floods last August. The Beads N More store took on a few inches of water, and the beads on the bottom shelves were submerged. It set the workers back from their schedule of packaging donated beads, but the team cleaned and hang-dried all of the affected beads, so the inventory (and revenue) was salvaged. That's what I love to hear! Louisiana at its finest - the Mardi Gras show will go on.
So, with this firsthand look at the GOOD donating and recycling Mardi Gras beads does, I urge you to load up your piles and bring them to the nearest donation point. Help keep beads out of landfills, support employment opportunities for LARC individuals, and help float riders in future years choose recycled beads over new. All of the money that Beads N More brings in is used to support all of LARC's important services in Acadiana.
Mardi Gras beads might not hold much value to you, but to this important organization, they are almost as valuable as gold. Recycle dat!
Visit LARC's Beads N More: 303 New Hope Road, Lafayette, LA 70508
Facebook | Beads N More Website