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June 07, 2013   Email to Friend 

Mary Johnson
(334) 235-1406
June 07, 2013

Heather Russell, back row, right, and her third grade class donated more then 6,000 pop tabs to the Birmingham Ronald McDonald House. Alfa Insurance Customer Sales Representative Ashley Martin, back row, third from left, inspired the project with a sign she made for the Greystone service center's pop tab collection.
CHELSEA, Ala., — Third grade teacher Heather Russell set a goal for her class to collect 1,000 pop tabs as a way to teach math and community service. The simple project kept growing, until her Chelsea Park Elementary School class ended the school year with 6,000 pop tabs for Birmingham’s Ronald McDonald House.

“In today’s society, it’s so important for kids to learn to help someone else,” Russell said. “(My students) really started to get excited about it. It was so heartfelt and heart-warming to see the way they were able to help others.”

A sign at the Greystone Alfa Insurance service center inspired the project. Customer Sales Representative Ashley Martin hung the sign at her desk to draw attention to the pop tab collection, sponsored by the Shelby County Women’s Leadership Committee. While in the office, Russell noticed the sign and presented the idea to her students.

“The kids said, ‘We can help other kids, just like us,’” Russell said. “I wanted (this collection) to be something they could give to someone else.”

On the last day of class, the students proudly presented their pop tabs to Kathy Robson, development manager for Birmingham’s Ronald McDonald House. Robson said pop tabs raised $21,000 for the home’s operating budget last year. Each pound of pop tabs is worth 70 cents at a local recycling center, Robson said.

The Birmingham Ronald McDonald House has 41 rooms for families of children admitted to UAB Hospital or Children’s of Alabama due to sickness or injury. 

“It’s not just a home away from home; it’s also support,” said Robson, who stayed in the Minneapolis Ronald McDonald home years ago, when her son needed a bone marrow transplant. “(The families) lean on one another because a lot of them are going through the same things. They become lifelong friends.”

Robson said the Birmingham Ronald McDonald House has an average waiting list of 15 families during the year. For the future, she encouraged students to start a school-wide collection.

The Women’s Leadership Committee, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, hosts a biannual pop tab contest. Tabs collected at the Federation Annual Meeting in Montgomery are donated to the Mobile Ronald McDonald House, and tabs collected at the Women’s Leadership Conference in Birmingham go to the Birmingham Ronald McDonald House.

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