TURNER’S FALLS – Over the past five years, students enrolled in Franklin County Technical School’s pre-employment program have collected more than 1 million aluminum cans for Ronald McDonald House Charities.
And they won’t stop now.
“We’re committed to trying to win our highest goal,” said junior Joey Valvo, a member of the pre-recruitment program for three years.
The pre-employment program, which builds social and vocational skills for students with cognitive and physical disabilities, has been raising funds every year for the past 14 years, said teacher Charles Choleva.
This year, in April, they delivered a 199-pound shipment of more than 224,000 cans to a Springfield charity, he said.
This marks the fourth annual collection of the past five that has raised approximately 200 or more pounds. Ronald McDonald House manager Celine Hamilton Quill said that when the money is added, each pound is worth 51 to 55 cents in the market.
“The students understand that if they make 200 pounds, that’s $100,” Choleva emphasized.
Hamilton Quill explained that the money raised by recycling the tabs goes into the charity’s food pantry.
Although it’s a boring way to earn money, the challenge has helped instill a sense of pride in the pre-employment program’s students by making them work and succeed, Choleva said. Valvo described collecting the tabs as “a lot of fun and a lot of fun,” and senior Hayley Chagnon added that it’s a joy to “just donate to those less fortunate than us.”
“We try to get as much as we can to donate them and help people,” sophomore John Howard Forner Jr. said.
It also gives the students an opportunity to bond with family, friends, neighbors and the community, Choleva explained. The students often go door-to-door asking people if they have a tab to save, initiating social interactions that might not otherwise have occurred.
“We’re always going around our neighborhood,” Valvo said, “asking our moms and dads and friends… and knocking on our neighbors. [houses] from house to house”
In praise, Hamilton Quill said the Franklin Tech students “are an incredible and very talented group who demonstrate their commitment to the program.” The “depth of their support” in recent years has made the school’s relationship with the Ronald McDonald House a “wonderful relationship” to a sense of family, she said.
On their most recent trip to drop off tabs, in addition to “mining” through piles of unaccepted materials, the students had lunch at a Springfield charity.
“It went full circle,” Hamilton Quill said. “It wasn’t just ‘get down and go.’ It was an experience.”
Contact Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.