First Posted: 1/15/2009
She sits serenly, a quiet center of the ripples that emanate from her goodness. But there is s storm ahead. Those ripples are quickly becoming waves, waves that could almost engulf her.
But Maggie Bell is not at all worried. The “almost 97 year-old” is surrounded by a network of loving realtives, friends and complete strangers who are making sure the project she undertook four years ago sails smoothly on its ever-growing ocean of support.
Mrs. Bell learned, in 2002, from her grandaughter Anna Hammonds, of a co-worker at Southeastern Regional Medical Center who is struggling to work while undergoing dialysis treatments three days per week.
“The girl at the hospital, Marie Roberts, is a friend, not just a co-worker of Anna’s. When she told me Marie’s story, I said ‘maybe I can help a little.’ That was four years ago,” Mrs. Bell said.
“My attempt to help has gotten bigger and bigger as people have learned about it. It makes me feel good knowing I can still help someone–and plenty of others sure want to make sure I feel real good!”
Mrs. Bell heard about a group that collected pop-top rings (or tabs) off aluminum soft drink cans, and began to collect them herself at GlenFlora in Lumberton, where she resides. Soon, others joined in her collection routine and the ripples began to spread. Now, those ripples have reached as far as Raleigh and Charlotte and even as far as Florida, where a woman who read about Mrs. Bell, collects pop-top rings and brings them to her! Others, strangers, also collect and bring their rings to GlenFlora, where they say “these are for the lady who collects them” or where they just drop them off. Linda Thompson, GlenFlora’s Activities Director, makes sure they all get to Mrs. Bell.
Her biggest helpers are employees of various local plants, and the staff at the Robeson Correctional Facility, which keeps the cans but sends the pop-top rings to Mrs. Bell. Lots and lots of them.
Each pop-top ring is worth about 10 cents, Mrs. Bell said. And she and her associates have collected hundreds of thousands of them.
The money received, after the rings are placed in gallon milk jugs (donated by SRMC) and shipped to a recycling center, goes to Marie Roberts, who uses only as much as she needs and who then passes along the remainder to other dialysis patients in Lumberton.
Proceeds have also benefitted the National Kidney Foundation and some of the patients at the Fayetteville Dialysys Center.
Currently, Mrs. Bell is collecting for and donating to the family of four year-old Damien Hammonds, a neuroblastma cancer patient who has undergone a bone marrow transplant. Money received will help his family with travel expenses to the hospital in Chapel Hill and with their stays at the Ronald McDonald House there. It will also benefit other parents who stay at the Ronald McDonald House while their children are treated. It takes 120 pop-top rings to generate about 35 cents for the Ronald McDonald House.
Ten Mile Center Baptist Church, which the Hammonds family attends, is collecting rings for the Hammonds family. Deena Revels, principal at St. Pauls Elementary School, who also attends the church, is spearheading a drive at her school to collect rings. These will be added to those Mrs. Bell collects this month, said her daughter Brenda Hammonds.
“People who have learned of what Mama is doing have been so wonderful and generous,” Brenda Hammonds said. “I can hardly believe something that began so small has grown so much. And it is still growing.
“People will come to the nursing home and drop the rings off, and most of those people don’t even know Mama, or even know her name. But they know she’s here and collecting and helping and so they come.
“Mama has helped people her entire life,” her daughter said, “and she’s still helping. And more and more people are helping her help. The ripples are turning into giant waves and we’re all so proud of Mama for starting all this commotion!”