Our Deepest Gratitude to Hank Batzkall, Mr. Crayon, Who Brought Color & Creativity Into The World!
Everyone at SCARCE is blessed and fortunate to have known ‘Hank’ Henry Batzkall, a dedicated volunteer of the Super Crayon Project, who passed away in June of 2006. Hank began volunteering at SCARCE in September of 2003 and was viewed by the staff as the ‘captain’ of our crayon recycling project. In honor of his responsibility,he proudly wore a jacket with the multicolored letters spelling “Mr. Crayon”.
After his retirement as an auto body repairman and owner of Hank’s Auto Body, Hank volunteered at SCARCE. His shirt had two pockets, one for his glasses and one for his crayon knife. Hank devoted 20 hours per week to sort, remove the paper from broken crayons and repack gently used, good crayons. The broken crayons were melted and cast into super-sized crayons for use by people with special needs. Unbroken crayons were repackaged into tins to be distributed to low-income school districts.
Hank’s tireless efforts touched the lives of so many children with crayons as a vehicle. Executive Director of SCARCE, Kay McKeen, recalls “After Hurricane Katrina, Hank stayed long hours as a part of his relief efforts, so the youngest victims of the storm would at least have crayons. This kind, gentle man took his volunteer duties seriously and came in ‘to work’ until three weeks before he died.” In the last couple of years, word of Hank’s work spread, and several newspapers featured stories about him. When he died, Hank’s story made front page news of some local papers with fitting tributes to this dedicated man.
In retrospect, it is easy to see that Hank’s entire life was preparing him to be Mr. Crayon. As one of ten children, growing up in the Depression, a box of crayons was a luxury; and decades later, his recycled crayons would be distributed to children who could not afford them. Serving in the Navy during the war, Hank lost a finger making it difficult to hold items in his hand. His Super Crayons were easier to handle and found their way into the hands of special needs kids with similar challenges of holding regular-sized crayons. The challenges in Hank’s life made him the perfect candidate to lead our Super Crayon Project and we, at SCARCE, know this was not a coincidence!
Hank’s daughter, Dianne Batzkall-Morrison reflects on her father’s work at SCARCE. “My dad truly loved his ‘job’ at SCARCE and took it very conscientiously. Human beings are precious. As we age, we must recycle ourselves. Dad was able to do this. He became partially disabled, but still had so much to contribute and did so at SCARCE.”
Over the years, Hank lovingly collected, sorted and remolded thousands of crayons which were sent to children around the United States and to all corners of the world – as far away as Angola, Peru & Sri Lanka. These kids will never know who to thank personally for the gift of color & creativity which Hank provided, but those of us who knew him will remember Hank as an inspiration in our daily work to care for the environment. Hank was a man known by many titles - husband, father, businessman and veteran – but at SCARCE, we are honored that he was also known as Mr. Crayon! Our gratitude goes to the entire Batzkall family for their ongoing support of our mission.