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Student-led Can Collection Effort Helps Local Nonprofit | SUNY Plattsburgh

Students raised more than $11,000 through a just-concluded community-wide can and bottle collection, an effort that will help purchase a new 14-passenger van for the Ted K Center, a nonprofit organization providing educational, social and recreational opportunities for youth in Plattsburgh Housing Authority developments.

Over April and into May, the Million Can Redemption Plan initiative was coordinated by students in an upper-level public relations class. They led 11 neighborhood sweeps and collection events and involved more than 50 campus and community organizations as sponsors, partners and donors.

“What they were able to do, bridging the community and the Ted K Center, was incredible,” said Mark Hamilton, executive director of the Plattsburgh Housing Authority. He added people were well-aware of the campaign and asked about it regularly for weeks.

Invaluable Experiential Learning

Collecting more than 222,000 cans and bottles, the students managed a budget, coordinated meetings and drop-offs, presented information to local businesses and campus groups and secured sponsorships. Their final presentation to representatives from the Ted K Center outlined what was a tireless effort.

“This campaign taught us how to run an intricate PR campaign as only juniors and seniors,” said senior public relations major Fred Hoefer. “We had to make changes every day.”

Students learned early on they would have to carefully decide how to spend their time. Out of their many ideas, they were forced to commit to the handful that would achieve the best results.

Professor Colleen Lemza, who oversaw the campaign, commended her students’ determination.

“This took time, and the learning curve was huge,” she said.

Assistance to Local Organization

As for results, the money raised through the campaign will help fund the purchase a new van for hikes, museum visits and other field trips. An upgrade from the center’s current vehicle, which is deteriorating, it will allow kids to experience places further from the city.

Ted K Center Director Tom Neale, though, noted the impact of the students’ work goes beyond dollar amounts.

“I think it was a pretty amazing job,” Neale said. “The awareness — I’ve not seen the community get on board with something so quickly. This was a great learning process. The students learned the value of face-to-face communication.”

Despite the end of the semester and the students’ formal involvement in the project, the Ted K Center will look to capitalize on the momentum the campaign has started. Community members still interested in donating their recyclables can contact the center at 518-561-7690.

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