The ‘Scrap Man’ cometh


Terry Buschert supports several area children’s camps with money raised from discarded scrap metal at construction sites. Courtesy Architectural Metals Inc.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in scrap metal is lost every year from West Michigan construction sites to landfills.

For many years, Terry Buschert collected the scraps from his job sites with Architectural Metals Inc., returned it to recycling facilities and split the money with his crew, who used the money to buy beer. Approximately 17 years ago, Buschert turned his life over to Christ and began volunteering at youth camps.

Soon the beer money dried up.

Buschert quickly realized many children can’t afford to attend youth camps, which he believes are an important function in learning. Instead of splitting the scrap metal money with the crew for “beer money,” Buschert brought his personal trailer to his job sites and collected metal scraps and returned them for scholarships.

“Getting kids away from TV and media just for a week to experience camp life is so important,” he said. “They learn about God, good sportsmanship and learning. It was important to me to get kids to camp. I started getting people from church to donate, but people only have so much money.”

His first year, he sent eight children to Lincoln Lake Baptist Youth Camp with scrap money. Today, he has raised more than $100,000 to help send children to camps. With dumpsters leaving job sites often more than half full of metal, Buschert said there’s much more money being thrown away.

He also now supports programs at Pine Ridge Bible Camp and Camp Concordia and spends Tuesday evenings working with students at Eastown Ministries.

“There’s more than just one camp I strongly desire to support,” he said. “It gives me a chance to reach kids who are lost. It’s a blast, and it gives me an opportunity to give back.”

His philanthropic work, along with his more than 30 years in construction, was a major reason he was awarded the Craft Professional of the Year by Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter.

His work with scrap metal also is the reason he’s known within the West Michigan construction industry as the “Scrap Man.”

As a foreman for Architectural Metals Inc., Buschert turns sheet metal into roofing and siding on a variety of construction projects across West Michigan. Most of his work his putting the “final skin” on a project, but he also works on the interior stud work.

“I’m an artist,” Buschert said. “I just love putting these sheets of metal together as an art. I sign the last piece of each project as a blessing to the people who use the building and the people who put it together.”

He said the honor of CPOY gives him an added credential while training in the nonunionized program, National Center for Construction Education and Research. He currently serves as an apprentice adviser for the crews at Vos Glass, while a colleague fills the role at Architectural Metals.

The training with NCCER allows the companies to compete with unionized employers, Buschert said. He said the company left the union years ago when it hit hard financial times, and he took a wage cut to continue working and dedicated his time as an instructor.

“He has a gift and learned it early on and was gifted with his hands,” Architectural Metals President Brian Potter said. “He took that gift and used it to provide for his family. He then took it to the next level and taught others about his gift and the skills he has learned, and now at this point, he realizes his gift can be used outside by serving other organizations and other people, and he has taught people to recognize their gifts and use them in ways that serve others.”

Buschert hopes he can convince every contractor to start recycling their metals. He can’t venture into job sites and collect scraps, as without permission, he’d be trespassing.

He spoke of a specific instance of talking through the pros and cons of recycling scrap metal with Holland-based contractor Elzinga & Volkers. At a project three years ago, Buschert collected the metal from the job and ended up giving the company a $2,700 tax receipt, as it’s legally a tax donation when used to help children go to camp.

“How much do they spend sending metal to landfills? If you take that weight and recycle it, it’s giving a kickback that you can donate to help a cause,” he said. “It’s also more sustainable. It’s a win-win-win. I don’t know anywhere it’s a loss.”

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