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Josh Wright listed a few goals for the Lowe's Heroes project at South Shore Charter Public School just outside of Boston. Not only did he want the project to encourage others to pay the goodwill forward, but he also hoped it would pay back the school far more than Lowe's put in.

Wright, an assistant store manager at Lowe's of Abington and the father of three South Shore students, led the team of volunteers who built and installed recycling centers around the school. The Lowe's Heroes project significantly enhanced South Shore's recycling program, one of the K–12 school's growing environmental initiatives. The new waste-collection cabinets and barrels replaced small crates that were overflowing with paper and plastics.

Wright said the next day a parent saw Lowe's handiwork and was inspired to nominate South Shore for the America's Greenest School contest administered by IC Bus, the nation's largest school bus manufacturer. South Shore sent in its video entry, a mock TV newscast that included third- and fourth-grade reporters touting their recycling efforts, while standing in front of a collection cabinet created by Lowe's Heroes.

In late April, the students were on a live TV newscast. The breaking news: After 1 million votes, South Shore Charter Public School had beaten out more than 500 entries to win the title of America's Greenest School. Along with a $200,000 hybrid school bus, the school won a $20,000 green makeover and a $3,000 scholarship.

"The Lowe's Heroes project was a big impetus in us being selected as America's Greenest School," said Lower Grade Principal Ted Hirsch.

About 20 Lowe's Heroes installed six cabinets, which were constructed over a couple of months at the Abington store. Each 6-foot cabinet has four slots for recyclable paper, plastic bottles, drink pouches and other materials. Lowe's Heroes also contributed 12 large, mobile paper-collection barrels to cover all corners of the school. While diverting trash from area landfills, South Shore generates revenue from the waste through national collection programs — relationships Wright helped develop.

"We wanted to give them tools to build on and create an opportunity to see a dollar return on their efforts," Wright said. "We set up resources that are going to pay them back over time."

The Greenest School contest brought nearly a quarter of a million dollars in prizes. The school's young environmental stewards add to that amount each day by filling the cabinets and bins with paper and nonrecyclable waste. Items, such as drink pouches, cookie wrappers and chip bags, are collected by a business that pays two cents per item and converts them into more-valuable products, including backpacks, umbrellas and shower curtains.

"It's so exciting to see a Lowe's Heroes project go a lot further than just a handshake and a thank-you after the event," Wright said.

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