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by Liz Schafer
It was something people do, sometimes, and sometimes, people forget to keep doing it. It wasn’t, until someone came along and showed how important it was and how it could change someone’s life.
Bill Kessler wasn’t giving blood to save lives or taking up a monetary collection for the local food pantry. Instead, he was collecting pop cans and saving the pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House. He wanted to make a difference.
Kessler was a resident at Clearview Home in Mount Ayr following the fire at Clearview Home in Clearfield just a year ago. He enjoyed the outdoors and nature. If he wasn’t in his room working on a puzzle, you could find him on the porch taking a nap until it was time to eat. Kessler kept his daily routine to a tee. He would get up and enjoy the walk to the dining room for breakfast, head outside to check on the birdbath and bird feeder outside his room window and then rest outside on the bench.
Before lunch and dinner, everyday, Kessler would take five laps up and down the south hall at Clearview before going up to the main dining room. He kept a note pad with the tallies of every trip. What he did on each of the trips was the part that would make a difference.
Kessler would notice empty pop cans in the trashcans or sitting on the counter at the nurse’s station. He’d pick them up, take them back to his room, wash, rinse and drain them before he’d pull off the pop tabs. He was collecting these pop tabs for a special purpose.
“Bill Kessler was a special man,” said Liz Schafer, Clearview Home activity director. “He’d stop in my office, sit down, make sure I wasn’t busy and then start to share farming stories.” He’d see a pop can or two in Schafer’s office – picked them up, put them in his walker bag and move on. This became part of his daily routine for him. “I started to make it easier for him and put my pop cans on the ledge outside my door. It became such a constant, if I didn’t have a can on the ledge by four o’clock, he’d ask me if I quit drinking.”
A few of the residents noticed what he was doing and they would start to leave him pop cans outside their door for him to pick up. Other staff would start to do the same.
When Kessler would collect several cans on his walk, he’d stop in the office to tell the story why he collects the cans. According to Kessler, before being admitted to nursing care, he would go to the local McDonald’s restaurant in Creston for coffee, and at the same time, he would drop off a bagful of pop tabs.
Kessler passed away last October. “I miss having him stop in my office for pop cans. I miss seeing him go for his walks and marking the number of trips he made,” said Schafer. “This inspired me to do something in memory of him. The activity department started a pop tab collection program.”
Schafer placed pop tab receptacles at the nurse’s stations, in the break room and in her office for staff to drop off their pop tabs. Each container has some facts about the charity. Residents have been asked to share this story with their family and friends and encourage them to drop off their pop tabs to the activity office at Clearview Home.
“I have few residents who have asked their kids bring in their pop tabs,” added Schafer. “Several staff are starting to collect them at home and bring them in as well. We want to make this an ongoing project to remember Bill.”
Tabs will be gathered periodically and taken to the Ronald McDonald House. Schafer has enlisted her confirmation students at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Mount Ayr to help with this program. They will come in to bag the tabs and then they will set up a time to make a trip to Des Moines to drop them off.
Since 1974, Ronald McDonald House Charities has created programs that strengthen families during difficult times. RMHC provides vital resources and compassionate care to children and their families. Helping a sick child fight their illness takes a big enough emotional toll on a family. Adding a financial strain can make it all almost too much to bear. RMHC can help address those problems, whether they involve housing that’s near a hospitalized child, the expense of staying together in another city, or even getting basic medical and dental care in a vulnerable community.
The community of Mount Ayr and the surround areas are invited to take part in this project. When you visit Clearview Home, bring along the pop tabs. “Even if you don’t bring them here, take them somewhere to be collected,” encouraged Schafer. “The Des Moines Ronald McDonald House Charities raise approximately $5,000 to $6,000 a year in pop tabs.”
Fun facts about the pop tab — 1 pop tab = 1 inch long; 1,280 tabs = 1 pound and 63,360 pop tabs = 1 mile. RMHC have chapters in 64 countries and regions. Iowa has chapters in Des Moines, Iowa City and Sioux City, along with one located in Omaha, Nebraska. For more information, contact Liz Schafer at Clearview Home at 641-464-2240 or check out the Ronald McDonald House Charities website at rmhc.org.