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Schools collect more than just boxtops and soup labels

Most people are familiar with efforts by local schools to collect Box Tops for Education and Campbell’s soup labels, but there’s a whole lot more for some schools.

Pine River-Backus Elementary School’s Linda Henkel has been in charge of collecting soup labels and Box Tops for Education since 1999. When she started the collection was limited, but it has grown since then.

The school now collects points from Coca-Cola, UPCs from Our Family brand groceries and many more items. All of these can be redeemed for important school supplies. It is through these items that the school has purchased its $8,000 climbing wall, picnic tables, benches, athletic equipment, library books, school clocks, binding machines and many other items. The program is valuable to the school.

“I think we average $2,000 a year,” Henkel said.

Henkel said PR-B collected 259,081 soup labels and $3,059.10 worth of Box Tops for Education during the 2012-13 school year. In September 2013 alone, the school has already collected 34,256 soup labels.

Not everything they get is redeemable for cash, however. My Coke Rewards are worth points that can be used to purchase items from a catalog, Sunny D UPCs are worth books, as are specially marked Kellogg’s Cereal codes.

Not all of the items the school collects are for the school, though they still do some good. Most people are familiar with the Ronald McDonald House collection of soda can tabs, but there is also a window of time when the school will collect Yoplait pink yogurt lids for breast cancer awareness.

Students are encouraged to bring in labels, box Tops and UPCs with the promise of monthly pizza parties or picnics for the class that collects the most. As such, if your child or a child you know attends PR-B, consider collecting these items for the school. If you don’t know any elementary students, you can drop off your own items at the district office at the Pine River-Backus School building.

When they are donated, Henkel personally oversees the clipping, packaging and mailing of donations.

“I bring all my scissors and my whole family sits at the table and cuts labels. It’s sacks and sacks. It’s thousands of labels,” Henkel said. “You have to package them certain ways. There are 50 box Tops in a bundle. With Campbell’s Soup, you used to have to bundle 500 and use cotton string to wrap them. Now you just take a brown paper sack and throw in the labels and put the number on the outside and away it goes. So it’s getting simpler.”

Of course, PR-B isn’t the only school in the area to collect these items. Schools in Pequot Lakes, Nisswa and Crosslake each collect their own selection of items. In Nisswa, Principal Erin Herman said the 2012-13 third-grade class sorted out the school’s $1,250 worth of box top donations.

“It’s one of our favorite collections,” Herman said.

Herman also said that designating Nisswa as your school of choice when you use Target credit cards is beneficial to the school.

“All of our schools really appreciate the check we get,” Herman said.

Nisswa also collects pop tabs.

Crosslake Community School collects a variety of items, while the Pequot Lakes School Parent Teacher Association handles only Campbell’s Soup labels and Box Tops for Education. Still, PTA president Gretchen Bombenger said the school collected approximately $2,000 in the 2012-13 school year.

Contact your school for a detailed list of the donations each accepts.