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Port Washington shop celebrates Earth Day with 'upcycle' project

Wit and Whim in Port Washington is celebrating

Wit and Whim in Port Washington is celebrating Earth Day throughout the month of April with an assortment of activities, and donating its profits to a local environmental group. (March 26, 2013) Credit: Handout

For the past few weeks, kids have been bringing buckets, bags and tupperware containers filled with their broken toys to Laurie Scheinman’s shop in Port Washington.

Like much of the merchandise, Scheinman, 50, sells at Wit and Whim, located at 6 Carlton Ave., these unwanted items will soon receive a second life and be transformed into something beautiful.

As part of her month-long celebration of Earth Day, Scheinman, a 15-year Port Washington resident and mother of five, is collecting the damaged toy parts and recruiting local kids to use the pieces to create an “upcycle” project on April 28 in her storefront.

“We’re going to have two giant ‘w’s’ for ‘Wit’ and ‘Whim,’ and a bunch of smaller ‘w’s in the window,” said Scheinman, envisioning the display. “Re-using things and making them special again personifies the shop.”

Inside her 1,000 square foot general store, Scheinman will be showcasing eco-themed art throughout April and offering a 25 percent discount to anyone born on April 22, Earth Day. She will also give away a $250 shopping spree on April 11 to the chef who whips up the best dish in her organic cook-off.

“Earth Day ... went hand-and-hand with the whole theme of the store,” said Scheinman, a child and family therapist who opened the shop in September 2012.

Wit and Whim carries an assortment of unique goods including messenger bags, handmade leather books, vintage jewelry, embroidered iPhone cases, natural soaps, candles and decorative tin canisters. Some of the products are made locally, some are fair trade, but all of the brands give back in some way.

“Everything in my shop has a story,” she said. “It’s a very happy store. Our catch phrase is ‘Gift and give back.’”

After paying her rent and her one full-time employee, Scheinman donates every penny of her profits to a charity each month. To date, she has given away well over $5,000 to local and national causes. The Wounded Warrior Project was the beneficiary for March and April’s proceeds will go to Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, a 45-year-old not-for-profit that supports local beautification projects, community events, environmental education programs, and research into quality of life issues.

“It seemed like a natural partnership, because her store really is all about making what’s old new again, social values and some of the things she sells throughout the year are recycled, re-used or reclaimed,” said Mindy Germain, 42, executive director of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington.

Since her organization relies on donations, membership dues and grants, which are becoming more scarce these days, Germain said, “these types of creative partnerships are amazing.”

When the group holds its annual clean-up event in downtown Port Washington on April 13, which draws roughly 350 volunteers, Wit and Whim will also be serving healthy treats and handing out eco-inspired bracelets.

Scheinman added, “With Earth Day, we believe cleanup begins in your own backyard.”

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