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Lids for kids: RSVP helps ECFE by sorting jug lids

justine wettschreck/Daily Globe Bette Meinerts and Kay Onken, RSVP volunteers, sort and group plastic jug lids, which will be turned in to Kemps and Land O Lakes for a nickel apiece. The money is used to help fund projects for Murray County Early Childhood Family Education program.

SLAYTON -- An African proverb and Hillary Clinton both state "it takes a village to raise a child." In Murray County, the villagers are pulling together to educate their children by saving the lids from Kemps and Land O Lakes products.

On Monday afternoon, volunteers from RSVP donned medical gloves and started the process of sorting and counting more than 55 gallons of the colorful plastic lids. It took several hours, but in the end more than 13,000 lids were ready to be shipped out or brought to a facility. At a nickel apiece, this means more than $655 was raised for Murray County's Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program.

Employees at the Murray County Recycling Center grab the specially-marked lids off gallon jugs as they process items, and toss them in a barrel. Since last fall, they managed to almost fill a 55-gallon drum. Several businesses in Slayton, including Pizza Ranch and Jim's Market, are a collection point for people who save the lids at home. When ECFE Director Dodi Haugen organized RSVP volunteers to sort the lids, they found the drum was full and several baskets had to be filled to hold them all.

To organize the lids, volunteers sorted them and lined them up in groups of 10. Kemps lids are sent one place, Land O Lakes another, so they had to be separated. After volunteers covered tables with the counted lids, Haugen walked through and swept them into a box, 10 at a time, then packed them into shipping cartons, keeping a careful tally.

Because some lids hadn't been cleaned when collected, there was a distinct sour-milk smell, especially as the volunteers got closer to the bottom of the barrel, but the women stuck with the task.

"They don't know this yet, but there will be water and cookies for them when we're all done," Haugen commented.

Water. Not milk.

Each lid is worth a nickel, and while that may seem like a small amount, when the entire village pulls together to save the lids, serious money can come out of something most people just toss in the garbage.

Haugen has a specific plan for the funds this time, she said.

ECFE wants to move into a different room in the Murray County Central High School, but the room they are looking at doesn't have water.

"We're asking to have a sink put in," Haugen said.

She is also hoping to purchase a piece of equipment that will project whatever is on a computer monitor to a large screen.

"We probably won't raise enough with the lids for all of that, so I'll apply for a grant through the Southwest Initiative Foundation," she explained.

In the meantime, after spending hours with the lids, a group of women are very, very proficient at counting to 10. According to Haugen, there were 9,481 Land O Lakes lids and 3,629 Kemps lids. At Jim's Market, there is a program in place to match whatever is raised in Kemps funds, which gives Haugen and ECFE a nice start on raising money for the education of the children.

Once all the checks come in, more than $800 can be put toward adding a sink and purchasing the equipment needed to give young children an early start toward an excellent education, thanks to the recycling center workers, the people who save the lids at home or in their businesses and the volunteers at RSVP.

Monday's volunteers included Betty Wilcoxin, Glenna Miller, Kay Onken, Bette Meinerts, Elaine Johnson, Betty Onken, Twyla Sellman, Laura Carter and Diane Malone.

Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck may be reached at