Call it a drop in a bucket or thousands of pop tabs in a box. By any measure, Korby Rudd has found generosity to be not so much a matter of dollars and cents as it is a product of dedication and caring.
So she laughs at herself when considering the $3.45 check she sent to the Ronald McDonald House of Spokane. The tiny donation is the result of collecting and counting “one by one” 36,571 pop tabs from aluminum beverage cans – enough to stretch more than half a mile.
“After counting so many this last year, I kind of thought somebody else might want to do it,” quipped Korby, who's a medical transcriptionist in Pullman Regional Hospital's Health Information Management Department. Assuming the pop tabs came from 12-ounce cans, the tally represents more than 6,850 gallons of beverages consumed.
Ronald McDonald houses, the first being established in Philadelphia in 1974, are now in 58 countries. The houses, like the one in Spokane, are located near hospitals so family members can be near children who become patients. The pop tab collection program is but one of many charitable efforts aimed at defraying costs of operating the houses.
McDonald's Corp. also touts the pop tab program as way to teach children about philanthropy and the importance of recycling. Some Ronald McDonald Houses have been able to raise upward of $30,000 through pop tab collections, according to the Ronald McDonald House website.
“Everybody says that's not a lot of money that you're generating,” Korby said of the nearly 23 pounds of pop tabs collected at Pullman Regional. “And I say it's not necessarily the money as it is the effort that we're going for.”
The pop tab collection, Korby said, started as part of Pullman Regional's Generosity Program. Each department was asked to come up with an idea. Korby said she and her co-workers met, but were stymied about ideas. Then she went to Lewiston to visit her grandfather, Lyle Brown.
“He's been collecting pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House for years. So talking with him, gave me the idea to do this for our generosity program,” Korby said. She pitched the idea, co-workers agreed and she called the Spokane Ronald McDonald House about getting involved.
“They said all you need to do is just do it.” So Korby ordered a dozen Ronald McDonald House pop tab collection boxes and stationed them throughout the hospital, at the hospital's nearby billing office, and at Summit Therapy. “Everybody in our department started collecting and we just kind of spread the word.” Now patients are donating pop tabs and Korby said local tavern owners have expressed interest in being involved.
Recently, Korby said, a little boy was at the hospital and he was playing with a pair of dice. When he saw the Ronald McDonald House collection boxes, he got curious and decided he wanted to become part of the effort.
“So he donated his dice. He wanted to give to the little kids,” Korby said.
The collection boxes and the pop tabs inside are constant reminders, Korby said, that people often need help and the generosity of others, while not necessarily a cure, can help ease troubled times for patients and families.
“It takes 100 pop tabs to equal one ounce,” Korby said. “But you know, even if we're helping just a little bit, we're helping.”