Mel Gilles

Mel Gilles begins her first day on the job today as the executive director of WabiSabi.

“It is a dream job,” she said.

Gilles began her foray into non-profit work as a teenager by starting a recycling center. She continued that passion serving in the AmeriCorps and working as a director for the YWCA. She was the executive director of the Children’s Justice Center here in Moab from 1999 to 2001.

“We expected 12 cases in the first year,” Gilles said. “There were 60.”

As the director of a non-profit, she knew first hand how important training, cooperation and fundraising was to finding success.

“We knew we needed a chamber of commerce for non-profits to help us meet needs, to raise money,” Gilles said. “We did as much coalition as we could, but all our plates were so full. There were so many needs.”

When WabiSabi was established in 2002 Gilles, Moab non-profits were so excited they were “over the moon”, Gilles said.

WabiSabi is a Moab-based nonprofit organization that operates two thrift stores to recycle materials that would otherwise be deposited in the landfill. The proceeds from the sale of these donated items are distributed among Moab nonprofit partners. It also provides workshops emphasizing individual and community sustainability.

WabiSabi contributed more than $225,000 to the community since 2002.

“Moab is a phenomenal community and I am delighted to be given the opportunity to serve on this level,” Gilles said. “Since I was a teen-ager, the great passions of my life have revolved around the premises so central to Wabi’s Mission: non-profit support and development, sustainability, and reducing/reusing/recycling resources to turn rags into riches.”

Gilles finds WabiSabi’s “resource redistribution” to be one of the most interesting aspects of the organization.

“If someone has a need, there is someone else who can meet that need. There is so much going through that people perceive as junk that is treasure,” Gilles said. “It’s not just about the redistribution about the basic resources. But on top of that is money that is generated for the non-profits. And that money goes back into the community for all these other causes.”

During the first year Gilles plans to assess needs: community, individual, non-profits, and the needs of WabiSabi itself.

“The sky’s the limit,” Gilles said. “I’m looking for community input right now. Wabi is a manifestor. Whatever the community needs to manifest, now is the time.”