BLUFFDALE — When Michael Finch of Salt Lake City stood inside his mother's home after making the difficult decision to move her to an assisted living facility due to her battle with dementia, he found himself overwhelmed.
Not only was Finch struggling with the guilt that comes with that challenging decision, but he was now looking at a home filled with his mother's belongings that he didn't know what to do with. He didn't know if he was up to the task of sorting through everything.
"When my mother was moved to the assisted living facility, I was left with a lot of clothes and things in the linen closet," Finch said. "The garage was full of yard items, hoses and tools. I just sat back looking at it and thinking, 'Oh my gosh! What will we do with all this stuff?'"
Finch knew that many things still had value and could be used by those who needed them. It was then when he became aware of a man who specialized in exactly what he was looking for: someone to sort through, clean, haul away and find a use for his mother's things.
The man is Bluffdale resident Luke Wren, who has made it his job to take items that aren't useful to people and find a place for them. He is the self-proclaimed "Junk King" because of his ability to take junk and keep it out of the landfill.
In fact, Wren's business, which is named for his coveted title of Junk King, is centered around recycling or repurposing at least 60% of the items he picks up.
"A lot of people have things in their homes that they just don't know what to do with," Wren said. "There are properties with a lot of yard clean-up, and even estates left to family members with lots of good things that can be reused. Our goal is to find a place for these items so that we're not just adding to the landfills."
A lot of people have things in their homes that they just don't know what to do with. ... Our goal is to find a place for these items so that we're not just adding to the landfills.
–Luke Wren, Junk King
One of the many beneficiaries of items that Wren's company collects is Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps individuals and families in need. According to Salt Lake City Habitat For Humanity Restore Manager Alan Jacobson, Junk King has helped get items to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic because it has been difficult to get many items people were in need of.
"Luke has indirectly helped us by assisting some of our donors removing things from their home," Jacobson wrote in an email. "Due to the pandemic, we have not allowed our drivers to retrieve donated items from inside the home. Some donors are unable to move the items to an area the drivers can get to (either due to age or the size/weight of the items). Luke has graciously offered his services to remove the items from the home free of charge and either bring them to us or find another home for them. This has helped us keep things out of the landfill, which is a key core value for us."
Wren recalled a recent donation situation he was involved in that confirmed to him of how important his work really is.
"Recently, a lady called us up because her father had passed away, and she had a medical bed that she didn't have use for anymore," Wren said. "We went and picked it up and were able to give it to a woman who needed it for her aging mother who was moving in with her. The woman expressed how grateful she was because this was one less thing she needed to worry about at a difficult time."
Wren and two of his brothers started the business in 2020 near the beginning of the pandemic. He said the experience has opened his eyes to a lot of things he wasn't aware of before.
Wren also said that it has been touching to see how repurposing and recycling things can really help change lives and the environment.
"Over the past year or so, we have been able to reuse or repurpose thousands and thousands of pounds of things that would probably have ended up in the landfills," he said. "We actually get a lot of metals that we take to be recycled, and the money we receive we donate to Habitat for Humanity.
"It has really been neat to see what a small change in thinking can do for the community and environment, and I love going to work every day knowing that what we do is having a positive impact."