WOONSOCKET — Luigi Porreca Jr. is not a magician, but he and his father are going to turn metal into food for the poor this year — again.
The proprietors of L&R Scrap Metal Co. are sponsoring the 2nd Annual Help Feed the Hungry for the Holidays event, which raised enough cash to provide about 500 dinners for the hungry last year.
“This year we hope to make it a thousand,” says Porreca.
But L&R needs your help — or at least your unwanted appliances — to make it happen.
Generally, said Porreca, L&R doesn’t handle scrap made from steel — which includes most washers, dryers, refrigerators and such.
Unlike far smaller items made from brass and copper, those heavy-duty gadgets don’t command much money in recycling markets, unless they’re collected in bulk.
The aim of the fundraiser is to do just that. L&R is encouraging anyone with unwanted washers, dryers, stoves, hot water tanks and similar heavy-metal scrap to donate them to the 631 River St. company.
The profits will be funneled to Matthew 25 Center, The River, the Providence Rescue Mission, and other non-profit charities in the Providence area.
During these trying economic times, there is no dearth of vantage points from which to observe the scale of want that has filtered through society.
But the way Porreca tells it, the scrap metals business is as good as any — maybe better. Sure, he says, the homeless guys often seen toting Hefty bags filled with aluminum cans through the city on bicycles show up regularly at the recycling depot to turn litter into cash. But there’s also a new lot of unexpected customers, whose efforts to scrape together a few pennies for groceries or heating fuel tug at the heartstrings: the elderly lady who scavenges the cupboard for unwanted pots and pans, or the gents who dismantle an old sofa for springs and hardware.
“The saddest thing I see is people taking apart their household furniture just to make a buck or two,” he says. “You see what the economy goes through in this type of business.”
In operation for 28 years, L&R Scrap was founded by Luigi Porreca in Woonsocket. It turns out to be a rather labor intensive job: It can take a bit of muscle lifting hunks of metal onto the industrial scale – the first stop for all the materials that come into the recycling depot overlooking the Blackstone River.
But the scrap business grew on the elder Porecca, and eventually his son and other family members joined him in the growing business.
“He knew he could make money cleaning up the streets and he liked the recycling part of it,” Porreca said.
Now he wants to give something back.
“My father has a big heart,” he says.