POP TAB KING
He certainly hasn’t done the most glamorous work in his professional life as a trash hauler and even in his personal life collecting aluminum cans, but at least for a day last week, the 77-year-old felt like royalty.
As Jim Spinler of Medford turned in his collection of an estimated 3.5 million pop tabs to the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, he became overcome with emotion. “When we drove in the parking lot, I had tears in my eyes,” Spinler said. “I felt like a king for a day.”
And Spinler had every reason to feel good about his generous contribution.
Spinler’s gift was the single largest tab donation to be ever received by the Rochester chapter of Ronald McDonald, according to Jacob Dreyer, spokesperson for Ronald McDonald. “It’s a pretty rare one,” Dreyer said, noting the previous record was 1 million a few years ago. “He developed a heart for our mission by knowing someone who had gone here years ago. It’s inspiring and heartwarming when they care so much about the children.”
The House, Dreyer said, relies on the generosity of people like Spinler. “We hope it’s inspiring for others,” Dreyer said of Spinler’s donation. “It was a huge blessing for us.”
Spinler’s idea to utilize the Ronald McDonald House for his donation came 30 years ago when a friend of his had a boy who stayed there. Spinler decided at that time he wanted to donate his collection to the house as a way to help other families in need.
“I thank the Lord my kids never had to be in the hospital or have to stay there,” Spinler said.
He started saving the tabs more than 30 years ago. When Spinler began utilizing the large bin, he never thought he would have been able to fill even half of it. About a year ago, the bin was overflowing with tabs. It was bulging at the seams and had to be secured by large yellow straps. Since last year, he kept the collection going by adding several 5 gallon buckets.
Spinler nearly gave up on the collection about five years ago. “But more and more people started bringing them down so I decided to keep going,” he said. One of the main reasons he kept going was because it didn’t cost him anything other than his time.
On June 17, Spinler hauled the bin to a recycling center in Rochester where the tabs weighed in at 2,120 pounds. Spinler said it takes about 1,500 tabs to make a pound. “When we took them to the center, they just couldn’t believe it,” he said. It took workers about 45 minutes to remove all the tabs from the container.
While Spinler made the donation, his generosity attracted media attention outside the Ronald McDonald House. He also got an opportunity to tour the entire facility. Eventually, his name will be added to the wall of donations inside the house. “They really made me feel like a king,” he said.
What makes Spinler feel especially proud is that he accomplished the collection on his own. “Nobody told me I had to do it,” he said. “If I would have been forced to do it, I probably would have never done it. I did it all on my own,” he added.
And he’s glad he didn’t listen to other people throughout his decades of collecting. “Others told me to sell the tabs for myself,” Spinler said. “But I wanted to help charity. Ninety percent of people just think about themselves. That’s the biggest problem (of our society).”
Spinler continued, “Everybody should do some kind of charity work. I’m glad I could do it so that I could help somebody else out.”
After returning home from the Ronald McDonald House, Spinler found himself filled with excitement over his accomplishment. “I couldn’t even sleep Monday night because I was so wound up in happiness,” he said. “Maybe some day somebody else can do something like this.”
Said Ronald McDonald’s Dreyer: “We hope it will inspire others to start their own small collections.”
Ronald McDonald’s pop tab program raises about $15,000 each year for the Rochester house, according to Dreyer. The House serves around 750 families from across the U.S. and the world each year. It provides a home-away-from-home and offers support to families seeking medical care for their children at the Mayo Clinic.
Even though he can barely walk anymore, Spinler isn’t about to quit collecting tabs. He utilizes a golf cart, which he has had for about 18 years, to get around town to pick up tabs. Just a day after the record donation, he was right back at collecting aluminum cans and pulling off the tabs. “I’m going to keep on until I die,” he says.
But he’s well aware that he’ll never hitting the 3 million mark was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “It’s something that will never happen to me again,” Spinler said. He added his son has agreed to step in to take care of the collection if something happens to him.
He said the collection begins all over again with “one tab at a time.”