Archie Kontuk has been a collector for as long as his family can remember.
Before he started holding onto pop cans, it was the plastic tabs on bread bags which Kontuk gathered, one-by-one, until he had a million.
“He gave them to a school so that students could see what a million looked like,” said Kontuk’s brother, Walter.
On Sept. 14, both Walter and Archie met with the owners and staff of Peaceful River Campground in Scotsburn, Pictou County.
There, Archie was presented with something that, for many of us would not hold a lot of value, but which means the world for Archie and for the people who he helps.
“Since last August to about a month ago we’ve collected 55,000 pop can tabs,” said Donald McKearney who runs Peaceful River Campground with his wife Dale. “Plus, there was more donated today, so it’s really near 60,000.”
“Geez that’s a lot,” exclaimed an appreciative Archie Kontuk who, for more than 20 years, has collected more than 3 million pop tabs. He knows this, because that’s how many it takes to help 22 people buy wheelchairs.
“One day he heard a story of someone who was collecting them to help buy a wheelchair, and that’s how it started,” said Walter.
Recycled pop cans typically go for 10 cents each at any recycling center, but those small pieces of aluminum can sometimes get a person as much as 40 cents per tab.
It takes approximately 3 million tabs to buy a wheelchair, so it’s fair to say that Kontuk has become a regular at the recycling center.
“The only time I saw him close to tears was when I was taking him to the bottle exchange with a load of tabs,” recalls Walter Kontuk. “Where we live on High Street you’ve got to go around a turn to get onto Main Street, and one of the bins fell of the truck and the tabs fell on the street.”
Archie made him stop, and they picked all of them back up.
“He was recycling before it was cool,” said Walter.
Last year Archie was officially designated the philanthropist of the year for Pictou County by the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce. He’ll will be turning 57 this year.
Both he and his brother have expanded the scope of their donations to help people who have lost their homes to fire. They also donate to churches and schools.
Barry Hamilton, who sits on the board of Summer Street where Archie is a client and employee, has set up an account for Archie’s passion-project at Golden Penny Enterprises recycling center in Blue Acres, Stellarton.
“Anyone who wants to drop off recyclables can go in and say that they’re for Archie,” said Hamilton. “The guys will count them and keep a running tab.”
As if the donation of tabs from Peaceful River Campground weren’t enough, Hamilton presented Archie with a check for $300, the total amount of cash-back that his recycling efforts have earned since last August.
When he spoke, Walter Kontuk made special thanks to Summer Street for the support that they’ve given his brother.
“Summer Street played an integral role in taking Archie’s project and passion to where it’s at,” said Walter. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we’re at today.”
As for the all the folks at Peaceful River, they’re aiming at adding even more to Archie’s collection this year.
“The next goal is to go for 100,000,” said McKearney.