No one knew what Ruth Hana was doing when she'd jump into a dumpster and pull out cans, only to take the pop tab off and throw the can back. She was 91-years-old; it was odd, to say the least.
Little did these people know that Ruth's collection of pop tabs would help many lives.
People Didn't Believe In Her At First
When Ruth Hana dug through the trash and hopped into dumpsters without a second thought, on-lookers were confused about her intentions.
Ruth wasn't homeless, and people around town knew who she was. Yet, no one thought to stop in their tracks and ask the older lady what she was doing. They'd soon find out.
Ruth Was 91 Years Old
Ruth was 91 years old and had no issue with people staring at and judging her. She was alone most of her life and was used to the leering. Even so, she was oddly thankful for her lonely years growing up.
Anything different, and Ruth would not be the person who jumped into dumpsters-- and for a good reason!
No One Asked Why
Each day, Ruth made it her mission to sift through as much garbage as she could. Her hope was to find cans -- soup, soda, or other food -- that had a pop tab.
No one knew why the older lady was so hyper-focused on finding tabs, and Ruth didn't humor them with the "why" since no one asked.
Years And Years Of Sifting Through Trash
This was not a new development. Townspeople watched Ruth for years as she hopped into dumpsters and searched through people's trash. They were confused, and some were even grossed out.
Ruth didn't mind their judgment, though, because she knew what she was doing and why she was doing it. The tabs were important.
She Was Old But She Wasn't Going To Sit Around
Even though Ruth knew what she was doing was important and would pay off in the end, it didn't stop people from giving her disapproving looks. Some even went as far as telling her "you're too old to be doing anything like this."
Comments like that made Ruth shake her head. Just because she was old didn't mean she had to sit around all day doing nothing.
From A House To A Retirement Home
Eventually, Ruth moved out of her home and into a retirement house. The facility was nice, and the staff was understanding when Ruth brought along her large collection of tabs.
She was grateful they allowed her collection, as it was against the rules to have so much clutter in a room.
Her Mission Didn't Stop
While the retirement home was comfortable, Ruth missed being able to go out. She missed her freedom. Just because she was confined to the home's grounds didn't mean she was going to give up her mission.
Each day, Ruth would go through all of the trash, collecting more and more tabs.
Each Day She'd Count Her Findings
After the end of each day, Ruth would sit in her room and count all of the tabs she'd collected before adding them to the boxes, jugs, and other holding containers she had littered over her room.
As the townsfolk were, the people in the retirement home were confused as to why Ruth was so fascinated with collecting pop tabs.
Ruth Collected One Million Tabs
Ruth was eager to get to one million pop tabs. When she finally found the last tab to add to her collection, everyone at the retirement home gathered around to witness her success.
Even while they were cheering her on, the on-lookers were more than eager to learn what it was all for.
She Didn't Tell Anyone What They Were For
Still, Ruth didn't tell anyone what the huge collection was for or why she went through all that trouble to find the tabs. It had taken years, and she wasn't about to brag about it.
But after all the judgment and mean looks, Ruth finally completed her mission and was ready to hand the tabs off.
Load Them On Up!
All Ruth did was smile at her collection. Then, she went back to her room, put on her shoes, and grabbed a jacket.
Afterward, she asked the staff at the retirement home if they would help her load all of the boxes of her one million pop tabs into the home's van.
The Staff Was More Than Willing To Help
The staff was eager to help Ruth, if for no other reason than the clutter would finally be gone. But they were still curious as to why, after all this time, Ruth wanted to get rid of the tabs.
It seemed like the bits of metal were important to the lady. Why would she give them up?
Ruth Gave The Driver An Address
Once all of the tabs were in the van, Ruth handed the driver a tiny piece of paper. It had an address written on it and, soon, Ruth's actual mission with her collection would be complete.
Along with two staff members, the driver took off to the address, wondering what was in store when they got there.
A Large Building And A Man In A Suit
The bus driver pulled up in front of a large building. Everyone was confused as to why they were there. Well, everyone except Ruth. She made an appointment and knew they were expecting her.
That's when a man dressed in a suit walked out the front door, going straight to the van and asking if she was Ruth.
The Ronald McDonald House Charity
The gentleman took Ruth's hand and said, "Mrs. Hana, so great to finally meet you." He got very emotional once he saw the sheer number of pop tabs Ruth brought along.
Ruth was donating her entire collection of tabs to the nonprofit Ronald McDonald House Charity! The question, though, was why?
This Wasnt Her First Donation
As it turned out, this wasn't the first time Ruth took it upon herself to help those in need. She often donated to charity and helped out where she could. The Ronald McDonald House, though, held a special place in her heart.
It helped facilitate programs for families with children in need, namely those with an illness.
Ruth Grew Up An Orphan
She held the organization close to her heart because of her own childhood. Ruth grew up an orphan and never knew the comfort of having someone around when she was lonely, scared, or sick.
Ruth wanted to ensure no child would ever feel that way. So, she began collecting tabs to help the nonprofit organization.
She Had Certificates And Thank You Letters
Ruth actually spent most of her adult life helping children, something that became abundantly clear when she and the staff returned to the retirement home.
There, Ruth showed the staff her various certificates and thank you letters from over the years. She had made so many donations to charities that the city even declared a Ruth Hana Day 12 separate times!
Giving Back To The World
Ruth wasn't in it for the recognition, though. She just wanted to make sure the children were as comfortable as possible. So, Ruth hid the letters in a box under her bed. She wasn't one to show off.
Giving back was all Ruth wanted to do, regardless if people recognized her work or not.
The Charity Collects Tabs
It still begs the question: why did she take it upon herself to collect one million pop tabs? What could they possibly be used for to help children? Well, the Ronald McDonald House actually collects pop tabs.
By themselves, the aluminum tabs really aren't worth much. But when you add together everything Ruth brought in, they can equate to a pretty penny.
The Pop Tab Program Has Made Over $4 Million
The Ronald McDonald House collects the aluminum tabs and then brings them over to a local recycling plant. There, they trade the tabs in for money. As of 2022, the Pop Tab Program has generated more than $4 million!
The money goes towards facility expenses, support programs, and to help sponsor programs.
Tabs Are More Sanitary Than Whole Cans
The foundation wasn't interested in the entire can or container, though. They just wanted to tabs, as they are more sanitary and are way easier to store in the long term.
Once enough have been collected, the charity brings them to be weighed to determine their value. Then, the recycling plant writes and cuts a check then and there!
"It Makes You Look Beyond Yourself..."
The nonprofit organization is well known.
When asked about the Ronald McDonald House, one of Ruth's fellow retirement home residents spoke very highly of it, saying, "They operate totally on volunteers and donations, and when you look at what Ronald McDonald House does, it makes you look beyond yourself to help somebody else."
"...Look Beyond Yourself."
The resident then spoke about Ruth and her mission, saying, "It is giving her something to do."
"She feels like she is contributing, and it is important for an older person to have a purpose in life — a reason. It is important as you get older to look beyond yourself."
Ruth Started Something Big
After finding out Ruth was collecting the pop tabs for charity, the entire retirement home decided to join in on her cause. Eventually, the entire home began collecting tabs!
One staff member said, "I'm sort of amazed at how these tabs have taken off. It has gone out into the community, and I'm just tickled that Ruth has gotten into this. It has given her something to do and made her feel useful."
Ruth Almost Fell Down In The Dumpsters A Time Or Two
Speaking to a Milwaukee news station, Ruth joked about her dumpster diving days and why she finds it so important to give back to the community. She said, "I know when I went to Miller Park, it's really funny; sometimes I would almost fall down into those dumpsters."
Even so, Ruth always knew there was extreme value in what she was doing.
She Didn't Stop After The Tabs Were Handed Off
Even after donating her collection to the Ronald McDonald House, Ruth didn't stop. After handing off the boxes full of pop tabs, she was back hopping into dumpsters and searching for tabs whenever she had the chance.
She is an amazing example of doing something so simple in order to help children in need.
"It's not what you get; it's what you give that counts."
Ruth continued in the interview, explaining what it was like to grow up in an orphanage without a family. It was one of the reasons she was so passionate about her charity work.
She said, "Christmas would come, and I would cry that I had nobody to celebrate with. My birthday came and passed, same thing...It's not what you get; it's what you give that counts."
Ruth Made Her Own Family
Even though Ruth grew up never knowing what it was like to have a family, she has since made her own. Since she has made so many generous donations, people who benefited wanted to meet their guardian angel.
According to Ruth, "The mother[s] are just overwhelmed. They're kind of my family."
More Frequent Donations
With Ruth's focused attitude and now the help of her fellow retirement home residents, she was able to collect more and more pop tabs. The sheer about of help allowed Ruth to make more frequent donations to the Ronald McDonald House.
Needless to say, no one was about to give Ruth another weird look when she hopped into a dumpster to search for cans!
Otha Anders Walked Into A Bank Pulling A Dolly Of Pennies
It had been just a normal day at the bank. Then, Otha Anders walked in, pulling behind him a dolly. Perched on top were water jugs full of coins, pennies he had found on the street and collected throughout the years.
Things had certainly just gotten interesting. The banker just stared at Otha, not entirely sure what to do. So, she asked, "How many are there?" Otha had no idea.
Otha Was A Family Man With A Quirky Hobby
Otha Anders was a 73-year-old family man with a loving wife and children who supported him in every venture. He worked on the Jackson School Board, watching over the children who found themselves in a bit of trouble with in-school suspension.
Otha loved his life, even if his side hobby made people think he was a little quirky.
He Enjoyed Picking Up Pennies
Picking up pennies off the street had gone from being a little something fun to being a fully-fledged obsessive hobby. Otha loved finding the little coins lying on the ground.
To him, it was a reminder to always be thankful for what he had in his life, such as a roof over his head and his family.
The Hobby Had To Do With His Faith
During an interview, Otha explained his hobby, saying, "I became convinced that spotting a lost or dropped penny was an additional God-given incentive reminding me to always be thankful."
"There have been days where I failed to pray and more often than not, a lost or dropped penny would show up to remind me."
His Faith Was At An All-Time High
Otha had always been a religious man, but his faith had soared to an all-time high in recent years. He believed each penny he found on the ground was a gift from God.
Little did Otha know, but his fortunes were about to soar a whole lot higher when he finally decided to cash in all of his pennies.
One Time Turned Into A 45 Year-Long Hobby
When Otha picked up his first penny off the ground, nothing in him knew that it would be a habit that would follow him for another 45 years. Even so, he started picking up and keeping each penny he found.
Not only that, but he stopped spending his own pennies that would come to him in the form of change! Everything went straight into his collection.
It Wasn't Just Pennies On The Ground
There was more to the change, though. Whenever Otha purchased something at the store with cash, he made sure the cashier returned his change with at least three to four pennies. The more, the merrier!
It became a quirky habit that stuck with him and helped his penny collection grow throughout the years.
No One Questioned The Quirky Habit
It became such a normal occurrence that Otha's friends and family didn’t even question it anymore. They just knew that if Otha was buying something to expect some pennies to come out of the equation.
Little did they know that their friend and family member's quirky habit was about to pay off in a big way.
Otha Didn't Spend A Single Penny
During an interview, Otha discussed his penny obsession, saying, "I would never spend a penny. I would break a dollar before giving up a penny." That is some pretty wild love for pennies!
And when the school found out about his little hobby, more than one person wanted to help.
Even His Students Wanted To Help
When Otha's students found out he collected pennies, they wanted to help. Kids would come up to him with handfuls of pennies, offering them to his growing pile. But, he didn’t take them.
According to Otha, he had rules and some principles when it came to his penny collection.
Otha Compensated People Who Gave Him Pennies
When Otha's students came to him with pennies, he didn’t take them right away. According to Otha, "I never allowed anyone, not even my wife nor children, to give me pennies without being compensated."
So, it sounds like he actually paid people who gave him pennies! What a funny concept.
He Had 15 Five-Gallon Water Jugs Full
Between the pennies he found on the ground, the change, and the pennies people gave him in order to help with the collection, Otha's penny pile grew higher and higher.
By the time 45 years passed, he had pennies filled to the brim of 15 five-gallon water jugs! He could even begin to guess how many there were.
There Was No Telling How Many Pennies He Had
With 15 five-gallon water jugs filled with pennies, Otha could only guess that there were maybe hundreds of thousands of coins. But, when it came down to it, he really had no idea how many were in the multiple piles.
And he wasn't planning on slowing down collecting pennies anytime soon!
Otha Didn't Want To Stop His Collection
It took Otha 45 years to collect enough pennies to fill 15 five-gallon water jugs. And he was planning on filling many more if he had his way. Unfortunately, the universe had a different idea.
Otha believed he'd amassed a small fortune with his collection. Because of this, he wanted to file it under his home insurance.
The Home Insurance Company Wasn't Going To Let Him File
The thing is, when Otha went to renew his house insurance to include the penny collection, they turned him away. Otha wanted the home insurance, though. So, he decided it was time to finally cash in his prized collection of pennies.
He really didn't know what to expect when he brought the pennies to the bank.
The Five-Gallon Jugs Could Hold Something Rare
Otha remembered reading a story about someone who cashed in on their coin collection, resulting in a small fortune. But that collection was a wide variety of coins, not just pennies.
Only time would tell how much money Otha had accumulated over the years, though. A collection that would be worth a lot more had he kept it in the family for many more years.
Maybe He Had An Error Penny In One Of The Jugs
If Otha took the time to go through each one of those 15 five-gallon water jugs, he might have found some pretty rare gems hidden amongst all of the pennies, such as the 1943-S Lincoln Wheat penny.
Coins such as that that hold an error are worth a small fortune in and of themselves.
He Didn't Have Time To Look
Not only error coins, but also those that are actually plated in silver, gold, and copper. Over time, these coins go up in value, meaning Otha's collection had the potential of increasing in worth if it was handed down through the generations.
Unfortunately, he wasn't going to have that luxury.
The Chance Of Finding An Error Penny Were Slim
While Otha didn't have time to go through each and every one of his pennies, it was okay. The chances of him stumbling upon a penny with an error were slim to none.
Even so, he did have one thing working for him and that was the sheer amount of pennies he had amassed throughout those 45 years.
Otha Recruited Some Friends To Help
With Otha's mind made up, he now had to figure out how to actually get them to the bank! It was an entirely different issue that he had to think about. Thankfully, he had good friends to help him.
A good thing, too, because those 15 five-gallon water jugs were very heavy!
Finally, He Was On His Way To The Bank
After Otha and his friends got the 15 water jugs into a truck, he was finally on his way to the bank. Now, it was just a matter of unloading the pennies onto a dolly and wheeling them into the bank to be counted out.
Otha had no clue what the final sum was going to be.
The Banker Had One Question
Rolling the dolly into the bank with the 15 five-gallon water jugs full of pennies on top, Otha got more than a few looks, especially from the banker who was going to help him.
Not entirely sure if she was going to turn him away, Otha was pleasantly surprised when she asked, "How many?"
Otha Had Roughly Half A Million Pennies
The lady stood there, not entirely sure what to do. It was definitely not a normal day in the bank, to say the least! When she asked Otha how many pennies he wheeled in, she was shocked when he said, "I would guesstimate about half a million pennies?"
Half a million!
The Bank Teller Didn't Have Time
With half a million pennies sitting in front of her, the Vice President's answer of "And you think we have the time to count half a million pennies for you?" was kind of warranted.
Who in the world had time to count half a million pennies when there were a lot of other things to do in the workday?
Otha Didn't Want To Be There Anyway
Not knowing what to do in the situation, Otha laughed along with her, even though being there broke his heart.
After a minute, he told the banker, "I know it's a crazy amount, but this is a dear collection of mine that I need to cash out. Believe me, if I had it my way, I’d keep these pennies forever."
The Manager Got Involved
The banker didn't turn Otha away. Instead, she called over her manager to see if there was anything they would be able to do for Otha and his penny collection.
Ironically, when the manager walked out to see what was going on, his face lit up! He actually knew Otha very well.
Otha Was A Loyal Customer
It turns out that Otha was a long and loyal customer of that particular bank branch, and the manager was more than happy to help him count out his collection.
"We value his business, as we do all of our customers," the manager said. “But if we can help Anders with his endeavors, we are happy to do so.”
It Took Five Hours To Count All Of The Pennies
Of course, the bank wasn't going to hand count the half a million pennies by hand. They led Otha and his friends over to the coin counting machine. And, with the use of an ax to bust open the five-gallon water jugs, they got to work.
It wound up taking Otha a solid five hours to feed each of the pennies into the machine.
The Total: $5,136.14
After five hours of putting pennies into the coin counting machine, a final sum flashed on the screen. After picking up pennies from the ground for 45 years, Otha had saved a grand total of $5,136.14.
That's a savings of $114.14 per year. That’s a lot of money for pennies that were a mere afterthought for most people.
Vacation, Donations, And A Dental Bill Was Paid Off
Otha knew just what he wanted to do with savings, too. After paying off a hefty dental bill that had just been handed to him, Otha brought his family on a nice vacation and also donated some of the money to his church.
It looks like Otha's quirky hobby, patience, and trust in his faith really did pay off!