After Bill Carson retired, he traded his Toyota Camry for a pickup.
He had no intentions of using it to haul fishing rods, hang gliders or other accoutrements of a leisurely lifestyle. He just needed a place for his cans.
Three times a week, the former Mountain View High School coach peruses recycling bins in Northwest neighborhoods looking for aluminum that he can turn into cash for Youth On Their Own, an organization that provides housing and mentorship for homeless teenagers. His Friday morning runs often turn up a truckful.
Smashed cans aren’t new for Carson. Back in the 1970s, before cloth grocery bags came into vogue, he helped found a recycling program in western Pennsylvania.
But the Oro Valley resident’s retirement plans might have proven canless if not for the students.
At Mountain View, Carson had worked with Youth On Their Own students, checking grades, overseeing stipends and vouching for those who called in sick. He knew he didn’t want to lose touch when he left his job. But he also couldn’t see himself volunteering if that meant sitting behind a desk.
“I’d been doing something like that for 30 years,” he said. “I didn’t want to do that anymore.”
Carson briefly thought about helping the youth by going door to door collecting money, but then he remembered his own dislike of solicitations.
“I thought, ‘What can I do to take something not of value to anybody and make it go for a good cause?’” he said.
In 2006, his first year, he turned in enough cans to donate $300 for the youth. So far, he has donated more than $1,000.
Carson’s can collection takes 15 to 20 hours a week. When he comes across discarded items other organizations can use, he gathers those, too.
“The fact that I’m helping kids I know deserve it really makes me feel good,” he said.
And that’s as good a reason as any to own a pickup.
To help Carson with his can project, call him at 531-9589.