Did you collect too many Gasparilla beads? Recycle them!

- This year's Gasparilla parades brought hundreds of thousands of pirates to Bayshore Boulevard, as well as millions of beads to go around their necks.

But, what do you do with those beads once the party's over? Save them? Toss them? Trade them for doughnuts? All of it can amount to tens of thousands of pounds of trash. They can't be recycled because they'll tangle the city's equipment.

A MacDonald Training Center for people with disabilities wants to recycle them. It's a way to not only cut back on the city's trash, but also, turn unwanted beads into opportunities.

Students living with autism, Down syndrome, or other disabilities will sort, repackage, and resell them to krewes for the next Gasparilla.

"Krispy Kreme approached us last year because they partner with an organization in New Orleans that does the exact same thing," said Karenne Levy, President and CEO of MacDonald Training Center.

On Feb. 24 from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.,. you can bring your beads in for their "Beads for Doughnuts" event. All you have to do is bring 12 lbs or more of beads into the store at 3113 Kennedy Blvd. for a free dozen glazed doughnuts. (Limit two dozen per customer).

The beads will be sorted by the Macdonald Training Center trainees and recycled for distribution next year.

In their first year, Macdonald resold about a thousand beads. Now, partnered with the City of Tampa, they're expecting a much larger number. Volunteers with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful will be shipping over their loot as well.

"This is really an opportunity for people to put their abilities at work," Levy said.

Anyone opting out of doughnuts can drop off their beads at several Tampa locations.

Beads can be dropped off at:
-Port Tampa Community Center
-Kate Jackson Community Centers
-Loretta Ingraham Recreation Complex
-Copeland Park Center
-At MacDonald Training Center.

Right now, you can drop off your beads at MacDonald. The rest of the bins should be out at the community centers by February 1st.

The bins will be easy to spot. They're vibrant pieces of art, created by MacDonald students. While much of their work is focused on job training skills, this is an opportunity to be a part of the celebration.

"Many times, they may not be able to go out and join the parade, but, they certainly get the feeling and the enthusiasm and the excitement of people, being a part of something that is so awesome for Tampa Bay," Levy said.
 

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