Today's date: Sunday July 22, 2018 Vol 51 Issue 29

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Business Leader Summer 2018

Legion lauded by premier on 20th anniversary of tabs program

by David Meyer


It was 20 years ago when a bunch of fellows sitting around the “BS table” at the Elora Legion pon­der­ed an urban myth that might have made them feel a little bit foolish that day.

They had heard that the alu­mi­num from pop tabs could be traded for wheel­chairs. They fell for it and found out they had been had - after collecting several hundred pounds. But, since they were at that designated table, they kicked the idea around a little.

Jack Baumber said he re­members saying to Ray Pearse, “It’s aluminum. It must be worth something.”

He found a scrap metal dealer willing to pay 20 cents a pound. Then Pearse found a recycling company willing to buy the tabs for 50 cents a pound.

The tabs program was un­derway. The result of their speculation is making metal history as well has providing hundreds of wheelchairs, walkers, and motorized scooters for people who need them.

The Elora Legion Branch 229 was honoured recently by Premier Dalton McGuinty, who saluted the volunteers who started the pop tabs for wheel­chairs program.

“On behalf of the government of Ontario, I am delighted to congratulate the members of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 229 on marking 20  successful years of operating the pop tabs for wheelchairs program,” McGuinty wrote on the official citation.

He added, “One of the strengths that sets Ontario apart is the dedication of our citizens to helping others. The members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 229 are a fine reflection of that cherished value.

“For 20 years, this fine or­ga­nization has, through its pop tabs for wheelchairs program, supplied hundreds of people with much needed walkers, wheelchairs, and motorized scooters. Take pride in knowing that your efforts are doing much to help people with disabilities enjoy greater independence and a richer quality of life.”

McGuinty added, “It is only fitting that you receive this deserved recognition of your commitment to making your community a better place to live. I thank all of you for your hard work, generosity, and caring spirit. Know that your desire to enrich your community continues to serve as an inspiration to all Ontarians.

“As you celebrate this milestone, please accept my best wishes for much continued success.”

Wellington Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott also sent along congratulations on the accomplishment.

“You deserve enormous credit for your hard work and dedication to helping those in need,” he wrote. “The dedicated and committed efforts of all the volunteers have helped raise funds to purchase over 940 wheel­chairs,” Arnott noted.

Baumber remembered  “We started collect­ing in 1988, and we gave the first chair away in 1989.”

The Guelph company that Pearse found agreed to buy only from the Elora Legion, be­cause it did not want to become a scrap metal dealer, and be­cause it supported the goal of providing wheelchairs The tabs were sold by the Legion and that provided cash for wheelchairs. Today, Baumber said, the legion gets whatever the market value of the metal is when it is delivered.

“I find out when we get the cheque,” he said.

It is has been a long and successful ride, not only for the users of the chairs, but also the Legion itself, which has now collected and sold enough tabs to buy and give away 968 wheelchairs.

When asked if he is tired after collecting, sorting, and hauling tabs for 20 years, Baumber laughed, and replied, “Yes - but I’ve had plenty of help.”

After Pearse retired, numer­ous others volunteered with the tabs program. The tabs themselves come from all over.

Entire schools collect them. So do factories. Truckers have been known to drive out of their way to pick them up, and over hundreds of miles, they slowly make their way from across the continent to Elora, where they are clean­ed, sorted, weighed, and sold.

Baumber said the media have made it possible for the tab phenomena to be as suc­cessful as it is.

“I had a call yesterday from a lady,” he said. “She read about the program.”

The story of the tabs has been aired and published all over the world. And as that happens, people start collecting to help out. The tabs come from Brit­ain, from Alaska, from Cali­fornia, and all points in be­tween.

Baumber said some Japan­ese people sent clippings from a Kitchener newspaper to Japan, and suddenly the story was published in a Japanese newspaper.

“I’ll never forget that first shipment from Japan,” Baum­ber said of the tabs that began arriving soon afterwards.



Vol 41 Issue 35



Wellington County

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