Mattie Stepanek once said: “Unity is strength. . . when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” This year’s Make a Difference Day on October 22nd proved that a collaborative effort can result in success.
Make a Difference Day featured for the first time an ongoing project conducted by the Residence Life Office called “Caps of Love.” The goal of Make a Difference Day is to bring volunteers and communities together with a single purpose of improving the lives of others in some way. Caps of Love is a non-profit organization that aims to educate the public on how to correctly recycle, as well as, to provide wheelchairs to the physically- challenged under the age of 21 in the USA. By recycling three different grades of plastic caps and lids and selling them to a recycling company in the United States, the organization is able to raise money to purchase new, and refurbished wheelchairs. The project also helps to reduce the quantity of unwanted plastic put into landfills and incinerators each year. The recycling company use the caps to create recycled “post-consumer” plastic that can used to make new products such as composite decking, janitorial supplies, shipping pallets, park benches, paint cans, and automotive interiors.
Caps of Love, which is located in West Palm Beach, Florida, gave away the first four of many wheelchairs to children with disabilities in the Unites States in the fall of 2014. The project here at Saint Leo however started in August, 2015, and has continued to grow since then.
During the school year, members of the student body, faculty, and staff have been making a conscious effort to save their bottle caps and lids, in effort to donate them to the Caps of Love project. The caps could be dropped off at the many collection sites around campus. The collection bins were placed in offices and in the dormitory buildings. On Make a Difference Day, this project had its first sorting event, which is one of a few, as the project will continue for another five months. The shipment date is set for March, which is when all the caps will be shipped by truck to the Bluegrass recycling facility in Burlington, Kentucky with which the Caps of Love organization has a purchase agreement. According to Heidi D’Ambrosio, the senior coordinator of the Residence Life office, this year’s goal of collecting 9000 pounds of caps is close to being met.
One of the most important parts of the process is sorting the caps into the 3 types of plastic as they cannot be accepted if they are not. The grades include polypropylene #5 and polyethylene #2 and #4. Each can be identified by the number inside the recycling triangle symbol on the cap. Polypropylene #5 caps include translucent caps such as Arizona Tea, Smart Water, and Vitamin Water. Polyethylene #2 caps include the tiny translucent water caps and green Dasani caps. Polyethylene #4 caps can be of any color or size. Some caps did not have recycling codes inside them. For these unidentified caps, the students had to perform the squeeze test to identify polypropylene #5s, which are very stiff and will not bend very easily at all, and polyethylene #2s, which are less rigid, but will hold their irregular shape and not go back to completely round. Unwanted plastic caps included caps with the paper and foil liners and any cap containing any metal.
This project has not only allowed Saint Leo to make a tremendous impact on the Caps of Love organization, but has also helped to further establish a sense of community, a major core value, with the cap sorting event on campus. Many student groups such as Greek life and the student government union, were present at Make a Difference Day to do community service while bonding with each other. The students were divided into groups and placed at different sorting tables. The instructions on how to sort the caps were given, and so the event began. The tent, which was set up on lawn in front of Kirk Hall, was filled with chatter, laughter, and music.
Savanna Vendik, a sophomore biology major, said, “It was a beautiful day out, and the event itself was fun. I enjoyed trying to “shoot” the caps into the sorting bins.”
Make a Difference Day had a good turn-out and much work was done.
“Make a Difference Day was a huge success. We were able to sort 23 huge garbage bags of caps which is about 1 ½ pallets,” said D’Ambrosio.
One student, Joseph Gilbert, a senior international tourism and hospitality major suggested that more sorting tables should be used next time to reduce the number of people at each table. However, overall, students had a great time.
“I really enjoyed working with everyone to do something great for the community. I believe if we continue to keep this momentum, we will be able to donate even more caps than last time,” said Martina Mckoy, a sophomore psychology major.
Since last semester, many students were looking forward to the continuation of this project. D’Ambrosio plans to spread the word about the project more around the Saint Leo community to better get staff and faculty involved. So, continue to collect caps, and look out for the next sorting event if you want to participate. For personal stories on who these wheelchairs go to, you can visit the Caps of Love website.