14 years on, Franklin Tech’s can tab collection still going strong

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 06-25-2023 2:10 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Over the past five years, students enrolled in Franklin County Technical School’s Pre-Employment Program have collected more than 1 million aluminum can tabs for Ronald McDonald House Charities to flip for cash.

And they aren’t stopping now.

“We’ll give it a shot at trying to beat our highest goal,” said junior Joey Valvo, who has been a member of the Pre-Employment Program for three years.

The Pre-Employment Program, which nurtures social and vocational skills in students with cognitive and physical disabilities, has been collecting can tabs annually for the past 14 years, according to instructor Charles Choleva.

This year, he said, they delivered a 199-pound load of more than 224,000 can tabs to the Springfield charity in April.

This marks the fourth yearly collection out of the past five that has amassed roughly 200 or more pounds of tabs. The money adds up, with each pound worth between 51 to 55 cents depending on the market, according to Ronald McDonald House manager Celine Hamilton Quill.

“The students understand that if they do 200 pounds, that’s $100,” Choleva stressed.

The money raised through recycling the tabs is put toward the charity’s food pantry, Hamilton Quill explained.

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While perhaps a tedious method of raising money, the challenge has helped bolster the Pre-Employment Program students’ senses of pride by giving them something to work toward and achieve, Choleva noted. Valvo expressed that “it’s really fun and it’s really comfortable” to collect the tabs, while senior Hailey Chagnon added that it’s a joy “just to donate to people less fortunate than us.”

“We try to get as much as we can so we can donate them and help people out,” said sophomore John Howard Fortner Jr.

It also provides an opportunity for the students to bond with family, friends, neighbors and the community at large, Choleva reasoned. The students have frequently gone from house to house asking people if they have can tabs to spare, initiating social interactions that may not have occurred otherwise.

“We always go around our neighborhoods,” Valvo said, asking “our moms and dads and friends ... and knocking on our neighbors’ [houses] door-to-door.”

In appreciation, Hamilton Quill said the Franklin Tech students are “an incredible and very talented group that show their heart through their commitment to the program.” The “depth of their support” in recent years has grown the school’s connection with the Ronald McDonald House into “an incredible relationship” that feels like family, she expressed.

During their most recent visit to drop off tabs, aside from “having a blast” sorting through the stack for unacceptable materials, the students enjoyed lunch at the Springfield charity.

“It went full-circle,” Hamilton Quill said. “It wasn’t just ‘drop and go.’ It was an experience.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.

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