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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 4 months ago

Ocoee Elementary, Lions Club collect caps for friendship bench

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Students at Ocoee Elementary partnered with the Ocoee Lions Club and Green Tree Plastics to collect plastic caps and lids, which will be transformed into friendship benches.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

The next time Ocoee Elementary students see the 900 pounds of plastic caps and lids they recently collected, it will be in the form of a friendship bench.

The Cardinals and the Ocoee Lions Club partnered with Indiana-based company Green Tree Plastics as part of its ABC Promise program. The ABC, or A Bench for Caps, program is designed by students and involves collecting plastic caps and lids.

Teachers use the opportunity to teach their students about caring for the Earth, recycling and green living. Students are challenged to collect plastic caps and lids, which in turn can be transformed into a bench made from 100% recycled materials.

Ocoee Lion Diane Isaacs, also a nurse at Ocoee Elementary, heard about the program from a fellow Lion. She instantly knew it was something that students at her school would love to be involved in.

“I went to my principal and I said, ‘What do you think about us collecting caps for a friendship bench?’” Isaacs said. “Then we decided, ‘Well, this will help with the recycling and we can talk to the kids regarding how much of this plastic would’ve ended up in the landfill or ocean.’ That’s how we started it. We talked about recycling, and they just took to it like water. The next thing we knew, the class that won, they probably collected 300 pounds of caps themselves. They had 12 bags of caps.”

From September through Halloween, students throughout the school were tasked with collecting various plastic lids and caps. While they were working toward their goal of collecting enough to make a bench out of, there was another incentive at stake — the class that collected the most would win a pizza party.

Acceptable items included caps from medicine bottles, milk jugs, detergents, hair spray, toothpaste, soda and water bottles, and even spray paint. Lids for yogurt and peanut butter jars, coffee cans, cream cheese and Pringles were among the collected items, too. 

“For our bench we want, we need 240 pounds of caps, so we’re probably going to get two benches out of it and the rest we’re going to give to another school so they can make a bench out of it,” Isaacs said. “…We will sort them color wise — we wanted red benches with black on it, because those are our colors for Ocoee Cardinals — and (Green Tree Plastics) melts that particular color for the bench you want.”

Seeing the children rise up to the challenge was a major reward in and of itself, Isaacs said, and the dedication they displayed was unmatched. One day, a coworker called her and asked what the deal was with the cap collection. 

“I guess another parent called her and said her son had taken every cap out of the refrigerator … any plastic lids he took and gathered up to take to school, and she was trying to figure out what’s going on,” Isaacs said.

Every Monday, she would watch students bring in boxes and bags filled with lids and caps. By the time the Lions Club came to collect the caps and lids, there were enough bags and boxes full of them to fill the back of a U-Haul trailer — an estimated 900 pounds.

“It was a really neat project. It was very exciting, the fact that they wanted to help and they wanted to help the environment. ...They got a big kick out of talking about what they brought in every day and how much of it would’ve been in a landfill.” - Diane Isaacs

In the end, Lacy Ahrens’ fifth-grade homeroom class won the coveted pizza party for collecting about 300 pounds of caps and lids. However, all of the students were thrilled to haul their collections down to the school flagpole and see the fruits of their labor before it was collected.

Isaacs said the next step is sorting through the caps and lids collected, with the assistance of a local Boys Scouts troop. If all goes to plan, the hope is to get the caps and lids to Green Tree Plastics in Indiana in mid-January. Their benches would be ready to be picked up the same day.

“We have caps coming out of our ears, we’ve got them everywhere,” Isaacs said. “It was a really neat project. It was very exciting, the fact that they wanted to help and they wanted to help the environment. ...They got a big kick out of talking about what they brought in every day and how much of it would’ve been in a landfill.”

Each bench costs $300, and the Lions Club is paying for the current two benches. However, Isaacs said, if anyone would like to help sponsor the cost of another bench, contact her at the school at  (407) 877-5027, Ext. 369-2229.

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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