Bach Elementary can drive raises $2,418 for Black Lives Matter and Detroit Justice Center

First grade teacher Gabby Taylor—who spearheaded the drive—spent five weeks collecting and returning thousands of bottles and cans for the cause

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

If Gabby Taylor’s garage still reeks of the smell of soft drinks, it’s understandable.

During a Bach staff meeting on Zoom last month, the discussion centered on current events, the Black Lives Matters movement, and how it affects students.

“We, the staff, wanted a way to take a stand and involve the community,” recalls first grade teacher Gabby Taylor.  “I wanted a tangible way to help this movement–something beyond a social media post.”

She realized that because of the pandemic, people had months of cans saved up in their garages, and that nobody likes taking the time to return them.

“So giving that money from returnables to Black-led organizations was a two-birds-with-one-stone sort of deal,” she said.  

During the last week of school last month, Taylor sent out a Google spreadsheet to the Bach community and put out a request on Nextdoor for any cans and bottles. 

Gabby Taylor stands in her garage amidst thousands of cans and bottles.

People signed up for a day and she spent the following week driving to houses picking up donations. A few people dropped theirs off or collected for their neighborhoods. 

She physically loaded more than 10,000 cans into her car and drove them to local stores, loading them into the machines herself. That first week, she spent five hours a day on the project, averaging 3-5 trips to a grocery store each day because her car could only fit about 500 cans at once—and fewer when there were bottles.

“I got really good at learning the tricks to each store,” she says. “For example, Kroger machines would take the longest to process each can, and they usually closed early because their bins filled up quickly.  I would organize my returnables so I was only taking Kroger products there. Meijer on Zeeb Road was my preferred spot around 9 a.m. when the line was shorter.  If their bins weren’t full, you’d also have some luck there after 8:30 p.m.”

It was a lot of work.

At the end of the week, she realized she couldn’t keep up that pace by herself.

“I returned over 10,000 cans the first week and was not even halfway done,” she recalls, “so I sent out a call for help.”

A few Bach staff members and parents came to her aid over the next three weeks, and she sends a shout-out to Jody Brecht, Kristi Bishop, Tina Champagne, Lauren Chappell, Anita Ringo, Lisa Hall, and Eliza Wilson-Powers.

“Together we have spent dozens of hours separating glass and plastic, standing in line at Meijer and Kroger, and exchanging those slips for cash,” says Taylor, who also shared her Venmo for anybody who wanted to give a monetary donation and forego the can process.  “The whole project took five weeks, and we raised $2,418.”

The money was split between Black Lives Matter Detroit and Detroit Justice Center.

Her garage is still filled with a few hundred cans that must be returned to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, which aren’t accepting returns for the foreseeable future.

“I’m so thrilled with the result of this project,” she says, “and I can’t wait to get the smell of old cans out of my car!”

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