Woman Who Saved Pop Tabs For 26 Years Cashes Out
She felt like a laughing stock. Nobody supported her and thought she was insane.
The moment the bus parked in front of the building, their jaws dropped. They finally knew why she did what she did and they were flushed with embarrassment. She proved them all wrong.
91-year-old Ruth Hana didn’t have a childhood that most would imagine.
It was hard, lonely, and often heartbreaking. But it was those very years that had shaped her into the woman she was now – someone that was currently shifting through millions of pieces of metal with a single goal in mind.
It wasn’t the first time she had done something like this.
Not that many years ago, she could be found rummaging through garbage and crawling into dumpsters. People would either be disgusted or recognize her and not give her actions a second thought. But Ruth didn’t care. Lately, however, there was a new problem.
It wasn’t the fact that more eyes were on her, rather that the looks were accompanied by unwelcomed words.
She could feel her heart pressure rise any time they said, “You’re too old to be doing anything like this.” What did they expect? For her to just sit in her room and stare out the window until it was time to crawl into her coffin?
It had already been a hard adjustment moving into a retirement home.
But thankfully, it was a nice place with nice residents and staff that didn’t treat them like children or invalids. And, in Ruth’s case, they let her get away with a lot – which was vital for her current pop tab goal. She was getting so close.
Boxes, jugs, and bags lay in every nook and cranny.
She would spend her time hunting down cans, prying the tabs off, and then counting the day’s haul and adding the totals to her notebook. Everyone was desperate to find out what they were for. And it would only take a few more months.
As the big day finally came, the staff and residents gathered at her door and watched her drop the final tab into an old, plastic milk jug.
They all clapped. Even the ones that had judged her for doing something so strange politely joined in and didn’t even roll their eyes. The head nurse begged to know what the plan was.
Time To Go
Ruth grinned and pulled out her best Sunday coat, even a new pair of shoes she had bought a couple days ago.
On her orders, the staff put every container into the retirement home bus – many of them thankful the clutter was finally gone. Two staff members joined her, and she handed the address to the driver.
The bus finally pulled in front of an enormous brick building.
People funneled out from the front door – Ruth knew she was expected, she had made an appointment after all. But it was so funny to see the staff’s confused faces. A man in an expensive grey suit came out with a bright smile.
Staffed Expected Her
“Mrs. Hana, so great to finally meet you,” he said. He looked at the pop tabs and a tear formed in the corner of his eye.
So, what was the big mystery behind the collection? It was quite simple. They were a donation to the Ronald MacDonald House charity. But what did they do?
It wasn’t the first time Ruth had rolled up her sleeves to do something for charity.
But this one was to support families who needed to stay in the city because their children were very sick and needed to go to the specialized children’s hospital. Everything, every tab, connected back to her childhood.
You see, Ruth grew up in an orphanage.
Every holiday she felt heartbroken because she had no one to spend it with. Every time she got sick, she was terrified because she felt like no one cared. She had spent most of her adult years giving to children in some way.
Everyone Finally Understood
It wasn’t until they returned to the retirement home, did the sheer magnitude of her generosity become clear.
Through her life, she had done so many monumental donations, that the city had already declared “Ruth Hana” days 12 times! The staff marvelled at the pile of certificates and thank you letters she kept hidden in a box under her bed.
Just Who She Is
Ruth didn’t like to brag. It wasn’t part of who she was.
She just loved to give back to the world. People don’t realize the true value of generosity because they don’t see how it ripples through the world. They don’t see the real fortune it bestows on both sides.
Seen In A Different Light
After the truth came out, Ruth got the “last laugh” so to speak – although she would never really laugh at them in real life.
But people in the home looked at her differently now. They realized her action held great significance. She didn’t look for praise. What touched her more than anything was seeing how people in the home started to collect tabs now too! But how do pop tabs help children?
How It Works
The Ronald McDonald Charity House collects the aluminium pop tabs – which, in themselves, don’t mean much. However, when they are all added up, they become a significant donation to charity.
Ring tabs from any can of pet food, soup, or soda are given to a local recycler, who then turns the valuable aluminium into money for the charity. But why just the tabs?
Why Just The Tabs?
The ring tags from cans are much easier to store and recycle than whole cans, and they are also much more sanitary.
Once a large number of tabs have been collected, they are loaded up and weighed to determine their monetary value. The recycling center then writes a check for the charity so they can cover their operational costs.
A Life Of Purpose
“They operate totally on volunteers and donations and when you look at what Ronald McDonald House does, it makes you look beyond yourself to help somebody else,” A fellow resident said.
“It is giving her something to do. She feels like she is contributing and it is important for an older person to have a purpose in life — a reason. It is important as you get older to look beyond yourself.”
Because of Ruth, the entire nursing home is collecting pop tabs for charity, too.
“I’m sort of amazed at how these tabs have taken off,” A member of the staff said. “It has gone out into the community and I’m just tickled that Ruth has gotten into this. It has given her something to do and made her feel useful.”
Paying It Forward
Ruth has collected over a million pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House, and she’s still going strong. Every time she sees a dumpster, she climbs inside and sifts through the trash to save what she can.
Her story has since gone viral on Reddit and Facebook as she spreads awareness about children in need and what we can do to help.
Another Pop Tab Collector
Aletha Buck, a 96-year-old Shelby resident, has spent the last 20 years collecting pop tabs for The Ronald McDonald house. She does it to help the facility cover its operational costs for the people they help in hospital.
She began her mission back in 1995. “When you see the kids here, it does something to you,” she said. So, how many cans has Aletha collected?
10 Million Tabs
Over the 20 years she’s been collecting them, she’s managed to amass a staggering total of 10 million pop tabs!
“People were staying at The Ronald McDonald House and we always heard them talk about so many people who just needed some help,” she told reporters. How did she manage to do it?
Support From The Community
During the 20 years she’s been collecting, people have gotten wind of what she’s doing for The Ronald McDonald House.
Members of the community and even further abroad began sending her all the pop tabs they had collected in the mail. Aletha says she receives pop tabs in the mail almost daily, that’s why she keeps on counting.
“I just got more excited when I got more tabs and started counting them,” Aletha said. “And I thought, ‘well, you know, that might be alright to count them just to see how many we can get.’” Little did she know, she’d continue to collect them for the next 20 years!
Soon after she realized how much she was helping the non-profit organization, she set her goal of 10 million tabs and hit in 2021.