Archived Story

Johnson collects 3 million pop tabs

Published 11:04am Monday, September 26, 2011 Updated 11:07am Monday, September 26, 2011

Collecting pop tabs for over 20 years was more than just a hobby for Fergus Falls resident and RTC retiree Daryl Johnson. He knew that, when all was said and done, that he could take the tabs to a recycling center and pass along the proceeds to the Ronald McDonald Foundation.

By 1999 Johnson had collected close to 200,000 tabs. Through this month the total had grown to close to three million.

“It’s time to cash in, for a good cause,” said Johnson on Sunday, just prior to the arrival of a vehicle to transport all of the tabs to a recycling center.

Ronald McDonald Houses collect pop tabs instead of entire aluminum cans because it’s more hygienic to store tabs than cans, and collection and storage is easier. The program is an easy way for people of all ages to support McDonald Houses and know they’re making a difference for families and children.

Johnson, who worked 32 years as a custodian and laundry employee at the RTC, placed the tabs along a heavy string material. Strands were wrapped in a concentric circle, much like a woven rug.

“I was able to keep a count, since about 612 tabs are part of one yard of a strand,” said Johnson. “It’s hard to believe that I finally reached the three million mark.”

More satisfying than that is that proceeds from the sale will go to help families cope when their children are seriously ill. The Ronald McDonald House such as the one in Fargo is there for families of pediatric patients who live outside the metropolitan areas.

“The Ronald McDonald House is a special home away from home,” said Johnson.

More than 900 family members stay at the house in Fargo every year. Families come from throughout North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and beyond the tri-state region.

On hand Sunday at Johnson’s home, along West Linden Street to assist with loading of the tabs, were his sister, Dolly Wamback of Georgetown (rural Fargo) and close friend Rick Bock.

“Daryl and I grew up in a household of eight children. I’m proud of him for what he’s doing and the same holds true for our siblings,” said Wamback.

They were raised in Beltrami and Ada, where there father worked as a machinist. Each year family members gather for the Local Ranchers and Cowboys Christmas celebration in the town of Flom, southwest of Mahnomen. It’s at this year’s celebration in Flom, in December, when Johnson plans to make the official donation to the Ronald McDonald Foundation.

“I get kidded that I must have enjoyed many cans of pop over the years,” said Johnson. “That’s true.”

He also received many tabs from family members and friends. Other tabs came from the two locations operated by the Fergus Falls Municipal Liquor Store. Johnson also came to the Humane Society where cans were delivered to help that program. The society graciously said that Johnson could take the tabs if they could retain the cans.

With this hobby at an end, people wonder what Johnson will do next. He will, in fact, keep busy.

That’s because he’s learning new skills at PioneerHome under the Experience Works Program. He gets lots of good advice from Bock. He’s taking up weaving as a new hobby.

Looking back, Johnson said he’s learned over the years that more can and should be done to help people in need, such as families who can benefit from the Ronald McDonald Foundation.

“Someone estimated for me that one million pop tabs, strung along, would go for about three miles,” said Johnson. “So today I’ve got an estimated nine miles of tabs.”

That’s nine miles of work that will go to a good cause.

  • pwdja81

    Great Job Daryl. I hope you know how proud I am of all that you have done for those in need. You are doing a great job for all of those in need. Thanks Daryl-David J. Agar-Long time friend and state employee.

  • camobabe

    Daryl, it just goes to prove that if you stay at working hard for a goal, and keep it up for 20 years, suddenly you can become an overnight success. Great job, well done.

  • holly

    From the Fargo Forum’s story “The pop tops weighed in at 1,813 pounds. Johnson was paid about 62 cents a pound, or roughly $1,200.”

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