Fondly known as the “Bag Lady of Waynesboro,” Bonnie Coiner Kiblinger is leaving a tremendous local legacy.
Kiblinger, who died on Memorial Day of 2019, was a lifelong resident of Waynesboro and Augusta County. For as long as she lived, she was involved in her community, particularly through supporting nonprofit organizations and charitable work by using funds she raised through recycling.
Kiblinger, who worked at a Waynesboro bank for 40 years, reportedly never missed a day. She also worked at the visitor center on Afton Mountain.
Before recycling became widely practiced, Kiblinger seemed ahead of her time. Ever since attending a program in Waynesboro years ago about recycling, she worked so diligently that Kiblinger eventually earned the affectionate nickname of the ‘Bag Lady of Waynesboro.’ She became an iconic site around the city, carrying a bag to collect any cans she found laying about.
“If she’d see you holding a can, she’d come up and want to take it out of your hand and empty it so she could get your can,” said Mary Alice Henkel of Waynesboro, a lifelong friend and later caretaker of Kiblinger.
Kiblinger was so avid about recycling that many times, she was nearly run over by a vehicle when she stopped to pick up a can in the road, Henkel recalled with a laugh.
Kiblinger got her entire church involved in her recycling efforts. A lifelong member of Bethany Lutheran Church of Waynesboro, every Wednesday her fellow church members helped Kibligner gather up recyclable materials, such as old newspapers and aluminum cans, so she could sell the material to raise and donate money that would benefit any local non-profit organization or charitable cause that Kiblinger wished to help.
“Whatever was going on in the community was what she did,” Henkel said. “It didn’t make any difference what it was. If it was a nonprofit organization, she collected money for it.”
Combining assets consisting of proceeds from her 80-acre farm and some other money in her accounts, Kiblinger was able to leave a total of $1 million to be evenly divided between the Community Foundation of Central Blue Ridge and her church.
CFCBR, headquartered in Staunton, provides assistance to a variety of local non-profit organizations, individuals and charitable efforts, particularly through grants in addition to awards or scholarships. Dan Layman, president and CEO of CFCBR, said that thanks to Kiblinger’s gift, the organization will be able to provide an additional five or six grants in Kiblinger’s name every year.
“Even though she left [her gift] without any restrictions, I’ll try to match it up with organizations that I think she would have been proud to support,” Layman said of the intention for the new funds. “And with a much stronger now emphasis on reuse and recycling, there are some new options in the community that we could choose to support in her memory.”
Kiblinger’s financial gift will be placed in CFCBR’s endowment fund so that it can be used forever, carrying on her memory.
“Through us, she is able to continue supporting many different organizations,” Layman said.
Layman thinks Kiblinger deserves to be recognized as the “founder of the recycling commission in the Waynesboro area,” as she was regularly practicing it before there was even a recycling center located in the area.
“I think the moral of Bonnie’s story is that if you have a passion for something and you’re willing to pursue it, you can find a way to get it done,” Layman said. “She was never somebody who considered herself to be wealthy, yet she found a way to make two gifts totaling a million dollars through her estate. She was not a Waynesboro socialite or a power player, yet she created this whole recycling tradition because it was important to her, and she turned it into support for more non-profits.”
Layman said Kiblinger’s funds will be ready to use for grants by 2021.
“She’s such a shining example that doing something like this is really within reach of anybody in the community,” Layman said.