News Archives

Cottage industry rejuvenating lives

 Denise Rowell loads a board with tire strips to make a doormat.
A UMNS photo by Holly McCray.









By Holly McCray*
Nov. 15, 2006

A new cottage industry is recycling tires and rejuvenating lives at Cookson Hills Center in Oklahoma.

Recycle Rebound adds to the growing number of small-business projects at the United Methodist mission south of Tahlequah, Okla. These projects generate jobs and income for people who are economically at risk.

Denise Rowell is one person who has found new purpose through the new business. Her faith witness is a powerful one, and she willingly tells her story.

Rowell said she is one of three children who have been drug abusers. Her illegal activity led to jail and an extensive probationary sentence. After she was paroled, she struggled to find employment - and she struggled against resuming her destructive behaviors.

She learned from friends about work possibilities at Cookson Hills and about a nearby church "that accepted people like me," Rowell said.

The center this year obtained the equipment and machinery used to convert used tires into new products: doormats.

Rowell's connection to the project was visceral. "Discarded tires and discarded people," she said. "That was me."

She also began attending nearby Canterbury United Methodist Church, a 12-step church that is part of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary (regional) Conference.

Rowell's sister started attending Canterbury Church, too. Their mother, who is Catholic, sometimes visits "to see what made such a difference in us," Rowell said.

The former inmate gives the credit to God.

She has been set free through Christ. The transformation in her was so radical that the court dismissed years of probation. She counts her days of sobriety as she counts her blessings. She smiles as she explains the manufacturing process that is her new job.

At Recycle Rebound, old tires are cut into strips. After holes are punched into the strips, they are placed on a flat form and wired together in the mat shape. Beads cover the wires between the strips. Rubber doormats in three sizes are created.

The choice of bead colors ranges, too. Some mats incorporate beads in many colors. Some may feature only one color. Options include patriotic, Christmas and even college colors.

Waste from the process goes to another Oklahoma plant that chips and crumbles the rubber for other uses.

Patty Ballard, a member at Canterbury, started the recycling business at Cookson Hills.

Rowell said a supply of about 200 mats is maintained, and special orders are accepted. The mats could be used in fund-raising, Rowell noted. Recycle Rebound seeks to cooperate with local church groups in ways that could benefit all, she said.

"We want to develop the business and help people get jobs," Rowell said.

The Rev. Meri Whitaker, director of Cookson Hills, said "Has-Mat" leaders are being sought for the project. These volunteers will help with promotion and distribution of the product.

"The more mats we sell, the more unemployable we can help," said Whitaker, who is also pastor at Canterbury Church. "The mats also promote environmental justice."

To place orders or volunteer, contact the center at or 918-457-5181.

Among the other cottage industries at Cookson Hills are a silk-screening business, Native American crafts store, a sewing project that creates church paraments and the Country Cupboard supplied by senior citizens.

Cookson Hills Center, Advance Special No. 582161-6, is a mission of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The Web site is: .

*McCray is editor of Contact, newspaper of the Oklahoma Annual Conference.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or .

Related Article

UMW continues to press for chlorine-free paper


Oklahoma Annual Conference