Donate your old Mardi Gras beads and help put people to work

If you still have old Mardi Gras beads around the house, a non-profit program in Gulfport desperately needs them. You can give those beads new life and help put dozens of people to work. The organization recycles the beads and sells them, but this year, supplies are running critically low.

This is the time of year when Gulf Coast Industries in Gulfport turns into Mardi Gras central. Bead recycling is one of its biggest projects.

Every year, 48 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn important job skills as they weigh, wash, count and organize boxes of donated beads. Dominic Pitts of Waveland has been sorting and stacking beads since 2005.

"It's very fun, and it teaches me a lot," said Pitts.

"They make money doing it and they love to get paid, too," said Hilton Glass, Gulf Coast Industries Director.

The beads are packaged and sold, by the sacks or pallets, to carnival krewes. This year, most of the beads have already sold out.

"Everybody's calling. We've run out of beads," said Glass. "The word has spread. Krewe members are calling when they're ready to be in the parades and asking us for beads. So we're low."

Glass said although donations have tripled this season, there's still not enough to meet the demand. There is actually a waiting list.

"We're on the internet, recycled Mardi Gras beads, and we fall right at the top and so we're getting calls all over the nation," said Glass.

Glass is appealing to the public to donate their unwanted beads.

"If we could collect in the next month about 3,000-5,000 pounds, that would be great just to meet the needs for this year," said Glass.

Your donations will keep those beads out of landfills and provide valuable vocational training.

"Over the last two or three years, we've had budget cuts that have been just substantial. This gives us an opportunity to work them and help them so they can have a place to come every day and work," said Glass.

The project is called "Throw-M-Again". In the coming weeks, more than 100 collection bins will be placed at businesses across South Mississippi, including at WLOX on DeBuys Road. You can also drop off beads at Gulf Coast Industries on 42nd Avenue in Gulfport.

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