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Habitat recycling program hits 10-year mark

Group collecting cans to build second house

Gary Penny stands inside the can cottage and hands bags of aluminum cans to John Yovich to toss into the box truck on Wednesday. Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and using his personal truck, Yovich started picking up the cans 10 years ago and a few years later graduated to the enclosed truck. Penny has been helping with this project for three years. There are several collection spots around Jefferson City and surrounding communities and over the years, enough money has been raised to build one home.

Gary Penny stands inside the can cottage and hands bags of aluminum cans to John Yovich to toss into the box truck on Wednesday. Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and using his personal truck, Yovich started picking up the cans 10 years ago and a few years later graduated to the enclosed truck. Penny has been helping with this project for three years. There are several collection spots around Jefferson City and surrounding communities and over the years, enough money has been raised to build one home. Photo by Julie Smith.

The founders of the local Cans for Habitat recycling program discovered that millions of aluminum cans can help build a home.

Rayma Grohs and Carol Scott founded Cans for Habitat in 2003, and July marks the program’s 10th anniversary. Money raised from recycling efforts has funded one house through River City Habitat for Humanity, and the goal is to fund another.

“Our biggest vision was to sponsor one Habitat house,” Grohs said. “Now our vision is to do a second in a shorter amount of time.”

Grohs and Scott have been involved with River City Habitat for Humanity since the organization’s early days in the mid-1990s. Each has served the organization in various capacities, including serving as the organization’s president. Both women have also received Habitat for Humanity’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The duo, along with the Cans for Habitat committee, River City Habitat for Humanity and dedicated community members, raised nearly $55,000 for the first house on Montana Street, known as “The House That Cans Built.” By the time the house was dedicated in late 2010, more than 2.9 million aluminum cans had been collected and recycled through the local Cans for Habitat program.

Grohs said Cans for Habitat currently receives 55 cents for every pound of cans, but the price fluctuates with the market. When the organization first began, it received 27 cents for every pound. Approximately 32 cans equal a pound.

“We knew that none of us could donate all of that money,” Scott said. “But we knew what we could accomplish with a lot of people giving a little effort.”

There are various Can Cottages located around Jefferson City where people can drop off cans. Cans for Habitat committee members also pick up empty cans from Jefferson City businesses.

“It’s dirty work,” Scott said. “Sometimes my car smells. I get in and wonder, ‘Hmm ... is that Bud or Miller Lite?’”

The local Cans for Habitat program grew from a national program that began as a partnership between the Aluminum Association and Habitat for Humanity International. Other Habitat for Humanity chapters also have the program.

Grohs said she is always amazed with the people she encounters through River City Habitat for Humanity.

“They’re just exceptional,” she said.

Scott said the hardworking and passionate volunteers and committee members have made Cans for Habitat what it is today.

“To have a family in a house because of aluminum cans is amazing,” she said.

A new Cans for Habitat shed was dedicated last month on Habitat’s property, 1420 Creek Trail Drive, to commemorate the 10th anniversary.

“It’s many years in the making,” said Kelly Smith, executive director of Habitat for Humanity. “They can store supplies there, as well as collected cans. It’s sort of a base of operations for the can program.”

She also said River City Habitat for Humanity will host some sort of party in early July for Cans for Habitat committee members and volunteers.

“It’ll be something for their support and dedication,” she said. “Collecting aluminum cans is not the most glamorous job.

“We want to celebrate them and thank them for their work.”

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