'I gave at the grocery store.' Thriftway shoppers save their empties for this successful fund raiser

PHOTO BY BILL GALLAGHER - Garden Home Thriftway manager Mike Babbitt prepares to distriubutre more than $15,000 to the elementary schools shoppers have donated thier empties to.Seven Southwest Portland elementary schools are enjoying a financial windfall, thanks to bottle and can returns at Lamb's Thriftway on Southwest Oleson


Since 2002, a row of four-foot-high wooden bins has been set up in the front of the store to receive beverage containers.  Each bin is designated for one of the seven schools — Markham, St. Clare, Maplewood, McKay, Raleigh Hills, Capitol Hill and St. John Fisher — which then receive the value of empties left in their bins.

Thriftway assigns one employee four hours a day to manage the deposited cans and bottles. A truck from the state-run beverage recycling operation picks them up once a week.

The windfall for the schools is the result of changes to Oregon's legendary Bottle Bill. On Jan. 1, the nickel container deposit was doubled to a dime, and the types of containers that require a deposit was expanded. Higher reveunes started flowing to Thriftway in April; checks are being distibuted now that reflect the higher amounts.

As a result, Lamb's Thriftway distributed $15,565 earlier this month to the seven schools. For the same six-month period in 2017, the amount was $10,087.

Mike Babbitt, who manages the Thriftway store, says he's got nothing but good feelings about the program. "All the reaction I get is positive. It's all good. Kids and parents love it when we make the 'big check' presentation at their school," he says.

The program has been around at Thriftway stores since 1997, Babbitt believes, and was started at the Palisades Marketplace in Lake Oswego. Babbitt, who once worked at that store, says owner Nick Goldsmith had the original idea.

"With him being very tied in to the community, his question was, 'How much more can I do for the schools?' And he said, 'Hey, how about if we take in the bottles and donate the money to the schools? I'll count them and I'll give the schools a check," Babbitt says.

The program has been in existence at the Garden Home store since 2002.  During that time, bottle and can donations have raised $152,592.

Babbitt says Thriftway shoppers respond to the opportunity to support "their" school. "You can see it in the results," he says.  "Some people bring in bags of empties too big for the bins that we earmark for the school of their choice."

How the money is spent is up the schools, says Babbitt.  At some, the parents group will decide what to do with the funds.  At other schools, the principal will make the call.  Some of the schools have used Thriftway's returns to raise

money for a specific cause.

"Capitol Hill is using the money to cover their playground," he says.

Contact Connection Editor Bill Gallagher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or

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