Sister Joan Marie Crapps sorts empty soda bottles for recycling with help from Thomas Fiengo, a member of Assumption Parish. In background at left is Tony Aufiero, who transports the recyclables to a processing center. (Photo by Lenora Sumsky)
MANCHESTER – Community involvement combines with environmental activism to make a real difference at Assumption School and its parish community.
On the fourth Saturday of every month, Sister Joan Marie Crapps and a team of student and parent volunteers collects bottles and cans to take to a local recycling center. Parishioners and citizens collect several hundred dollars’ worth of cans and bottles each month to help fund school activities.
Sister Joan Marie is a member of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of the Church. A second-grade teacher at Assumption, she has been running a bottle drive much like this one for more than 30 years.
She organized her first bottle drive at Holy Family Mother House, her order’s main convent, in Baltic, shortly after Connecticut enacted its container-deposit laws in 1978.
"I saw a need and I filled it," explained Sister Joan Marie, who is not known for blowing her own horn.
When Sister Joan Marie was transferred to Assumption five years ago, she brought the fund-raising campaign along with her.
She and her team of dedicated volunteers perform a variety of tasks, from sorting bottles and cans to placing signs advertising the event around the area.
Tony Aufiero, the father of second- and fifth-graders at Assumption, donates his time and energy to transport the numerous recyclables to a local processing center.
"I’m not sure how I got started with Sister, but I really enjoy helping out," he said.
Plans are in the works to give students the chance to complete their community service hours by helping out at the drive as well.
"We need to get more people involved," Sister Joan Marie said.
The volunteers aren’t the only ones assisting. Throughout the three hours set aside for the monthly collection, people of all stripes drop off donations.
One couple with a station wagon full of recyclables confessed that they don’t use many bottles themselves, but go "Dumpster diving" to help both the school and the environment.
Assumption School puts the proceeds from the bottle drive to good use. Most of the money goes into a scholarship fund to help students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get a Catholic school education.
Over the past year, the drive raised more than $2,000, most of which went toward the school’s scholarship fund. Additional funds were bought myriad school supplies, ranging from Bibles and books about saints to headphones and computer programs.
After a short hiatus, the drive resumes on the fourth Saturday of the month, Aug. 26, from 9 a.m. to noon.