By Jessica Farrish
It was a tab-ulous way to end the school year.
Sixty Jumping Branch Elementary students and JBE Principal Patricia Harvey, custodian Timmy Gill and other teachers congregated at the Beckley Plaza McDonald’s to be recognized for their schoolwide effort in can tab collection.
JBE students and staff handed in the largest local collection of the little metal recyclables this year.
Harvey and Gill were presented with plaques by Dewayne Dickens, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern West Virginia.
“The Ronald McDonald House program is very important to the community,” said Harvey. “We believe it’s so important, and that’s why we collect the pop tabs. Collecting the tabs is a way that our children, our families and community can help the Ronald McDonald House.”
Gill coordinated the collection effort at the school. He said that in the four-year collection effort, the tabs were stored in the school basement.
“The students were great for bringing those in,” said Gill.
As students and staff brought in the tiny tabs, and as Gill kept an eye out for any he could find, boxes — six large ones — were filled.
As the collection increased, Gill switched to 50-gallon barrels.
In the end, Gill said, the tabs filled four 50-gallon barrels, too.
That was a little more than 700 pounds of soda can tabs.
(According to Harper, there are 287 tabs in a pound, which means the JBE students collected at least 200,900 tabs.)
“It feels good knowing that you can help somebody,” said Gill.
He added that both he and Harvey are retiring this year, but he hopes the new principal and custodian continue the collection effort.
JBE fifth-grader Savannah Smith, 11-year-old daughter of Jason and Katrena Smith of Hinton, said she doesn’t recall exactly how many tabs she’d collected, but she and her family started saving all of their tabs to help other kids.
“We just started collecting them because the school wanted them,” she said. “I would tell (others) to save the tabs so we can give them to families that have hospitalized children.”
Harvey said she supported the effort after area resident Robert “Bob” Riffle invited the school to participate in his regional collection for Ronald McDonald House.
Riffle started the local collection initiative after his grandson had open-heart surgery in 1996, and his family were clients of the Ronald McDonald House.
For anyone who’s ever wondered if pulling a tab off a soda can before recycling really helps anyone, Beckley Plaza McDonald’s owner Myra Harper shares a story.
Harper has been involved with Ronald McDonald House Charities since she was a child, when her own father first started working at a McDonald’s.
As current owners of a McDonald’s, she and her husband, Tim, have always supported the Ronald McDonald House, which provides guest housing to families of hospitalized children, family rooms with showers and comfortable lounge chairs in pediatric units of hospitals, and mobile units for charitable relief efforts during catastrophes.
Recently, though, the importance of Ronald McDonald House Charities became personal.
“The House has always been important to us,” said Harper. “Two years ago, my granddaughter was at the (Charleston) hospital with RSV.”
Harper’s daughter didn’t want to stay in the local Charleston Ronald McDonald House, away from her daughter, so she stayed at the hospital. Harper also kept vigil there.
“The House (operates) a waiting room of SICU for the Pediatric ICU,” she recalled. “They have lounge chairs that lay down to almost a bed, and parents can take showers there at the hospital. They can get something to eat,” she said. “You’re right outside the doors. That family room was a Godsend.”
Harper’s granddaughter made a full recovery, and now the effort is more important than ever to Harper.
This year, Riffle’s efforts resulted in 1,400 pounds of donated tabs, according to Harper.
Directed by JBE music teacher Susan Newsome, around 60 students from third, fourth and fifth grades performed lively renditions of inspirational songs, including Katie Perry’s “Firework,” in honor of Memorial Day to lunchtime patrons.
The students have been practicing since January, said Newsome, who has hosted a public performance for the past 19 years. “This year we knew we were doing the collection, so we decided to do our program here.”
Newsome also unveiled performances by winners of two contests held at JBE this year — “So You Think You Can Dance?” and “The Voice.”
Voice winners Marlee Meador, Peyton Matheny and Rachel Cox sang solos, and dance winners Jasmine Crowe, Megan Cooper, Halie Ward and Riley Richmond performed a dance routine.
Many local schools participate in the annual Ronald McDonald House effort, and tabs can be dropped off at any McDonald’s restaurant.
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