As 2017 was drawing to a close and we were all tying up loose ends, making holiday plans, and looking forward to the new year, our chapter received a donation in the mail. On the check memo reads “ALUMINUM CANS” and this is how we all now know Esther Bender.
Esther is 79 years old and goes for 2-3 mile walks every morning around 6-7am, weather and health permitting. Joined in recent years by her sister, part of her route is the intersection of Hillcroft and W. Airport where she will stop at each of the four corner convenient stores to collect aluminum cans which she’ll turn in for cash. What she does with that cash? She keeps track of the payout totals throughout the year and sends in a lump donation to JDRF at the end of each year.
Esther sometimes collects up to 30-40 cans a day, pulls off the tabs which she donates to Ronald McDonald House, then waits until she has about three trash bags full before she loads up her truck to turn them in. She even has 3 neighbors contributing. One neighbor, whose three sons visit every two weeks, leave behind a hefty supply of cans that they forward to Esther. Another neighbor conveniently throws her collection over Esther’s fence to get it to her!
This tradition all started when Esther used to help someone else do the same thing. A friend’s son worked at a bakery where his boss’s daughter had type one diabetes, so he would recycle aluminum cans and donate the funds to JDRF on her behalf. Esther would help him. They continued this for some time until her friend’s son asked her one day, “Why don’t you turn your own cans in?” And that’s exactly what she did. Esther says,
It’s fun. It’s exercise. And it’s going to a good cause.
According to Esther, she’s been doing this for 3-4 years and had to take a break when she had back surgery in December of 2015. But in actuality, Esther’s ‘aluminum cans’ donations date back to 2007, and she’s contributed over $6500 to turning type one into type none.