by Paul McElroy

When John Ellacott talks garbage, someone on the island benefits. For the past 12 years, the owner of Salt Spring Garbage Services has proved the old proverb that where there’s muck, there’s brass. And a lot of that brass has been plowed back into the community.

Every year John and his wife Carla put the proceeds of the “Blackburn Mall,” the transfer station’s store of dropped-off jumble, to good use. Thanks to the Mall, that unwanted armchair, abandoned Teddy bear or well-thumbed book finds its way to a new owner. “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure,” says John. “If you can’t find it at the Mall, wait a bit . . .”

And the many hundreds of small donations (never payments) from islanders who have found their treasures there go toward the Ellacotts’ chosen charities. Annually, they donate $2,000 to the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation and a further $2,000 to the Salt Spring Island Foundation.
Every now and then a big-ticket item will find its way into John’s canvas cornucopia, but he sticks to the pay-by-donation principle. “Although we did have three perfectly good fridges at one time and put a $50 tag on them, but that was a rarity.”

Carla reminds him of the “lovely antique bookcase” that turned up one day. “The guy got it for $5 and he KNEW what he’d got,” says John. “But we also have people who give money without taking anything away because they know it’s doing some good.”

On top of their annual donations to the two foundations, John and Carla offer two regular scholarships of $1,000 each to help GISS students through their technical training. “This year a carpenter and an electrician got the scholarships,” says John, who trained as a surveyor in Ontario.

After 10 years of employment with the Ontario government, John began working in construction, originally in Ontario, then moved to Calgary and eventually started a waste management business there accutane price. He sold his business and “retired” to Salt Spring 28 years ago, working on the farm he owned at the island’s south end. But when the opportunity to buy into Salt Spring’s refuse business presented itself, John leapt at it—and abandoned his plans to retire. “Actually the business, Salt Spring Garbage under various names, has been on this site for 52 years,” he says.

As the business grew, so did the appeal of putting something back into the community. Last year, John and Carla established a third scholarship to honour and remember their friend and colleague Robin Gibbard, who died in 2014. “We wanted to do something for Robin because he was so instrumental in starting this whole thing,” John says. Unlike the other scholarships, the Robin Gibbard Scholarship Fund is held in the Salt Spring Island Foundation community endowment fund.

In the beginning, the plan was to simply use the nickels and dimes raised at the Mall to provide a couple of scholarships, but when the Mall raked in almost $7,000 in its first year they knew they should think a bit bigger. “We wanted to offer technical scholarships because nobody else was doing them,” says John. “But we soon realized we’d have to find another avenue, so we went to Lady Minto and the Salt Spring Island Foundation.”

Karen Mouat, board chair of the Lady Minto Hospital Foundation, says, “Since 2007, Blackburn Mall has generously donated to our Charity Golf Tournament as a major sponsor. John always says the hospital is a very important part of this community and supporting the hospital foundation ‘is just what you gotta do in a small community.’ The Ellacotts’ enthusiasm and unwavering support makes a huge difference to the lives of people on Salt Spring.”

Thanks to the generosity of people like the Ellacotts, the Salt Spring Island Foundation uses the proceeds from its $6-million endowment fund to assist scores of charities across the island.
Foundation board chair Kees Ruurs is also a big fan of Blackburn Mall, saying, “What a wonderful project John and Carla have developed over the years! The entire community now benefits from the Mall.”

Salt Spring garbage turned to pure gold.