FARMINGTON — Schoolchildren and various groups collect beverage can tabs, but where do they go?

That question recently prompted Shannon Smith, president of Emblem Club 460, to invite Kora Shriner Lester Smith of Lexington Township to share his efforts to collect and recycle the tabs for Shriners hospitals.

Shannon Smith donated bags of the aluminum rings collected over a couple of months to Lester Smith, a member of the Kora Shrine in Lewiston.

For nearly five years, he has collected the rings, taken truckloads to a metal recycler and sent the proceeds to the Shriners Hospital in Massachusetts.

“It’s work of joy. It’s for the kids,” he said.

About 600 pounds of the tabs fill the back of his pickup. Each pound brings about 50 to 55 cents. Before he takes a load for recycling, about every eight months, he screens them with a large magnet searching for steel rings, he said.

“They have to be aluminum. The steel price is about one-fifth the aluminum,” he added.

Lester Smith has placed five-gallon water bottles in local elementary schools at Jay, Livermore Falls, Farmington, New Sharon and Madison. He visits the schools at least twice a year to collect the tabs.

He also took over collection routes established by a man in Cornville, he said. The man wasn’t a Shriner or Mason, but he did the work for the children. With that route he picked up other towns, and schools in Athens and Guilford.

The Legion in Madison, the Emblem Club, the local masonic Order of Rainbow and others also collect the tabs for Smith.

Shriners have established 22 hospitals throughout the United States. There are also hospitals in Canada and Mexico, according to Lester Smith. Three of those are burn units, including the one at Massachusetts General in Boston and the pediatric orthopedic hospital in Springfield, Mass.

“There’s no charge for the kids,” he said. “They do charge insurances for treatment, but not the family. Treatment is based on need.”

The approximately 28,000 Masons and 8,400 Shriners in Maine do a lot for charity, according to materials Lester Smith passed out to Farmington Emblem members.

Along with supporting the hospitals,  state masonic charities include drug abuse prevention, a scholarship program that provides at least one scholarship in every public high school in the state and a child identification program.

The organizations also support national masonic endeavors such as medical research, learning centers and support of public museums, buildings and monuments.

For more information about collecting or donating beverage can tabs, contact Smith by phone at 628-6665 or email: [email protected]

[email protected]

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