Aluminum cans signal opportunity for schools

Provided Photo
Provided Photo

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — One day five years ago, Mary Stumpp started picking up aluminum cans from the streets of Indianapolis. The first day, she gathered a dozen.

Fast-forward to today: Stumpp has collected 730,759 cans, or 24,358 pounds of aluminum.

But Stumpp’s one-woman movement isn’t just about recycling. It’s also a way to promote her true passion — public education, The Indianapolis Star reported. Stumpp has donated all of the proceeds from her can collecting — more than $14,300 — to Indianapolis Public Schools, earning her the moniker The Can Lady.

“I was taught the one thing you deserve is an opportunity, and the best opportunity people get is an education,” said Stumpp, who grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia, and attended public schools in Columbus, Ohio, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Lexington, Kentucky, and Boulder, Colorado. “Public education is a public trust, and you can’t violate that trust.”

The money has gone to teachers who need supplies and equipment they could normally not afford. Think iPads, playground balls or special stools for kids who learn better when they can wiggle.

Stumpp said she became motivated to do something after hearing about kids left behind while classmates went on a field trip because they couldn’t pay the fee.

“I could sit and whine about it, or I could get up and participate in my community and WORK for change!”

And work she has.

In addition to working full time at Broad Ripple Power & Light, she is in her red pickup truck by 7 a.m. almost every day collecting cans.

Her initiative has grown to include collection sites at seven IPS schools and nearly 35 businesses.

Stumpp’s projects are promoted at area Patachou restaurants, said Rachael Hoover, director of social sustainability for Cafe Patachou.

“Mary really gives people a compelling reason to take the extra step to separate their aluminum from their other waste,” Hoover said.

Stumpp, 52, also helps organize metal drives as school projects.

Recently, she helped 360 students, as well as teachers and parents, of School No. 2 organize a metal drive. They collected 8,800 pounds of scrap that was sold to Trinity Metals for $1,600.

“I am over-the-moon proud of my students,” said Principal Andrea Hunley. She had students come up with suggestions on how the money should be spent. iPads are a frequent request.

“I think a lot of people care about what happens in public schools and can’t find a way to help … and Mary has figured out a way to make a difference,” said Linda Broadfoot, executive director of the IPS Education Foundation.

Stumpp has been gratified to help public schools while teaching about recycling. “I’m not paying forward. I am paying back,” she said.

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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