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Message in a bottle — and cans

Message in a bottle — and cans


WATERLOO – Piles of returnable bottles and cans will be turned into pizza and other meals for nursing home staff at the forefront keeping our most vulnerable well during the pandemic.

On Sunday, Jamie Mangrich put out a social media post inviting residents to drop off their 5-cent beverage containers, which he would then return and use the proceeds to show the community’s appreciation for care workers.

By noon Monday, the garage of his Hickory Street home was filled with bags of cans and bottles, with more bags piling up on his front lawn.

“This just got bigger than I thought it would. … It’s been like this all day. I’m surprised my neighbors didn’t get mad yet,” Mangrich, a restaurant manager whose wife works at a nursing home.

“These are about $10 a bag, cans are about $12 a bag,” he said. Stacks of the bags were forming a wall along his driveway.

He estimated he had collected $500 to $600 worth of returnables so far.

As Mangrich counted, Carla Huffman of Cedar Falls pulled up with more bags to add to his collection. She also included a cash donation.

“Usually we will save up our cans until we have a bulk, and then we usually donate them to the Humane Society or a Boy Scout troop. It’s a good thing, and it’s going to a good cause,” said Huffman, a registered nurse herself.

The drive is a blessing to many residents. While grocery stores quit accepting returnables when coronavirus closures began to kick in, redemption sites are still in operation.

Mangrich partnered with Metro Area Redemption of Cedar Falls to process what he takes in.

“They are supplying all the boxes, the bags, and they will come pick it up whenever I need a truck to come pick it up,” he said.

He also arranged so donors can drop off directly at Metro’s University Avenue location to be credited to his fundraiser.

Mangrich’s original plan was to use the proceeds to purchase pizza, and Marco’s Pizza agreed to match his donations. He also decided to expand the meal choices.

Waffle Stop, where Mangrich works, is offering gift certificates, Jay’s Home Style is helping, and Rudy’s Tacos is assisting as well as donating all its cans and bottles.

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