Steve Conti of Lehigh Acres had a special place his pantry for aluminum tabs that come off of soft drink and other canned drinks.
He's been collecting them for 25 years at least, he says. Last week, he took them to the Lehigh Acres McDonald's on Homestead Rd. and gave them to the general manager of the fast food restaurant, Brian Swanagan.
"That's a lot of tabs," Swanagan said. "We appreciate getting them from folks. What we do with them is send them over to Fort Myers to the store where there's a big vat for the collection of these aluminum tabs. When McDonald's gets so many, they ship them to a metal recycler which raises money for McDonald's Ronald McDonald Houses, especially the one in Fort Myers. They are places where parents can stay if they need to while sick children are being hospitalized.
Steve Conti, left, of Lehigh Acres, hands over some 25,000 can tabs to the Lehigh Acres McDonald’s general manager, Brian Swanagan.
Conti, and his wife, Barbara have been Lehigh residents for at least 31 years and when they moved to Lehigh, Conti said the McDonald's was new and it was then that he got the idea to start saving aluminum tabs.
Now, 25,000 tabs later, they will help McDonald's and Swanagan says people haven't forgotten the request from the fast food chain, that folks can collect these tabs and take them to any McDonald's.
Conti, now retired from the real estate and mortgage business, says he and Barbara have seven children and 17 grandchildren. They are scattered all over, but when they come home, there's always soft drinks stored in the garage and in the garage fridge.
"The grandchildren can drink a lot of sods and I make sure they save them," he laughed.
The cost of a canned drink today can run between a dollar or more. Do the math and that's a big load of cash spent over the years for the soft drinks.
"I have every flavor there is and every brand ... they're all here for anyone who visits. At parties, and other household events, the aluminum tabs are collected and tucked away in the kitchen pantry. When I got around 25,000, I figured it was time to turn them in to McDonald's where they can do some good," Conti said.
His wife, Barbara worked with her husband in the real estate business in Lehigh for years, until he sold the business. But he said his wife still sells real estate for Century 21.
During those years, they also managed several hundred rental properties in Lehigh.
Conti said one way of looking at it is that by saving the tabs, you can put back into the community.
"The community has been good to me, so I think it is always good to give back," Conti said.
He is very active on the Lehigh Acres Community Planning Commission and is proud of Lehigh and its future.
"We live in a great community and we want to better it over the years," he said.
When Conti presented the aluminum tabs, of McDonald's customers walked by and noticed the occasion. Katie Jones of Lehigh said she had lots of tabs saved and would bring them in this week.
What's Conti's favorite soft drink?
"I enjoy root beer, always have; I bet there are hundreds of tabs from my own love for root bear, he laughed.
Now that he has given the 25,000 aluminum tabs to McDonald's, he's ready to start collecting again. And if he can get you to save your tabs, you can bring them to him and he said he will add them to a new collection to again hand them over to the fast food restaurant.
"It was something that everyone in the family knew and friends, too, that when they had a soft drink at my house, they had better save those tabs," he laughed.