The Ottumwa Courier

February 14, 2013

Volunteers help with Tenco’s mountain of cans

CINDY TOOPES
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — What happens when you’re the only can-redemption business in a 40-50 mile area?

You fill up every corner of a big building and hope the next vehicle coming in isn’t a truck with a trailer stuffed with even more cans.

The situation began last year, according to Dixie Merritt, Tenco’s vocational director. A local company that took cans closed, and there wasn’t any other business to take its place.

Tenco, which employs residents with developmental disabilities, then began receiving many more cans than usual.

“We had to rent storage units, and the sheds were full,” Merrit said Wednesday. “We also used semi-trailers.”

Overwhelmed with the mountain of cans, Tenco officials put the word out to anyone who would volunteer to assist the organization.

Job Corps volunteers, employees from John Deere Ottumwa Works and others have helped. The Wapello County Board of Supervisors also heard of the overload and on Wednesday asked several county employees to help sort through the mountains of cans.

Every bit of assistance helps, Merritt said.

“We’ve sorted 1.6 million in cans to be counted, and it’s piling up every day,” she said.

A Legacy Foundation grant helped Tenco with a conveyor belt, which has improved the efficiency by 30 percent, but assistance is still needed and appreciated.

“People are helping local workers who have disabilities,” said Ben Wright, Tenco’s executive director. “If not helped here, then where? People rely on this money.”