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Champion recycler is retiring from ReStore

Jun 10, 2023Jun 10, 2023

NORTH EAST — In Rob Orndorf’s basement there is a bag that used to hold dry cat food that is now full of tight bundles of copper wire next to a bin full of brass fittings, a tangled bag full of what used to be power cords and a plastic tub holding aluminum pieces.

It’s all in a day’s work for Orndorf, a volunteer for Habitat For Humanity Susquehanna. The 80-year-old North East man has spent the last several years bringing home broken ceiling fans, dead household appliances, bathroom and kitchen fixtures and a wide assortment of pots, pans and cutlery and separating the metals for resale.

“If you just turn it in for scrap you get almost nothing,” Orndorf said. So he takes what would have been thrown away from the items donated to ReStore — the Habitat For Humanity Thrift Shop in Aberdeen — and brings them to his home workshop where valuable metals are harvested.

According to Cathy Herlinger, Communications Manager with Habitat For Humanity Susquehanna, Orndorf has raised more than $38,000 for the non-profit agency that serves Cecil and Harford counties.

Orndorf has volunteered with Habitat since hearing a presentation at West Nottingham Presbyterian Church about the thrift shop.

“I was pretty impressed,” he said of John Lanigan’s presentation. He started helping out soon after the store opened in 2006. “At first I was just a helper, unloading trucks and helping people get their purchases loaded into their vehicles.”

However, he soon became painfully aware of how much donated material was being tossed.

“Faucets, lengths of pipe, valuable scrap metal... I did some dumpster diving and came up with a load of stuff,” he said. He loaded up a Habitat truck and headed for a recycling center. “I got maybe $30 or $35. It wasn’t worth it.”

“But then I started thinking, if we take it apart and separate the metals we get more,” he said. The cord off a non-working vacuum cleaner alone can bring in $1.

“So I started taking things home to my workshop,” Orndorf said. Bringing a full bag of copper wire, or a box full of brass fittings or aluminum scrap commands a better price than if it were not disassembled. He can get as much as $150 in one trip this way. A ceiling fan motor has a pound of copper wire, he noted.

“One time I found a sterling silver tea set. It was all beat up,” he said. “I took it to a pawn shop and got almost $2,000.”

A Navy veteran who worked almost 40 years as a logistics engineer at Boeing, Orndorf negotiated the sale of helicopters around the globe.

“The money is in the support, the manuals, the parts for the fleet,” he said. Orndorf and his wife Sue retired and moved from Pennsylvania to Cecil County in 2007. He said Sue supports his volunteer work.

“She says it’s better than going out to the bars,” he said with a grin.

Orndorf figures he would spend up to 30 hours per week in the basement shop pulling, tugging and cutting. Just about everything gets turned in for money, he said, showing how he cut the plug off an appliance cord, stuck it in his vise and pulled out the pieces of brass that would have connected the unit to electric service.

After shopping around, Orndorf found a one-stop shop at Elkton Recycling on Dogwood Road in Elkton who will take every kind of metal he brings and give a good price.

“They are convenient and clean,” he said.

However, now Herlinger is faced with finding a new scrap metal champion. At the end of August, Orndorf is retiring from ReStore.

“I’ve got to catch up on my home projects,” he said.

Anyone interested in taking up where Rob Orndorf is leaving off can contact ReStore at 443-567-7698 or go to

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