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Regina resident collects thousands of pop tabs for charity

Patricia McDermott spent most of her life on a dairy farm in Iowa. She helped out with chores, feeding the calves and taking care of her family’s sheep.

She was born with a mental disability — tests later in her life suggested she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage before she was born — so she had a private tutor for about 16 years. She helped nurse her mother after her father’s death 20 years ago, and after her mother died four years later, she moved into Hastings with her sister and brother-in-law, Barbara and Bruce Gaylor. Not long after, she found a home in Regina Medical Center’s assisted living facility.

McDermott has always loved helping out. Besides helping on her family farm in Iowa and nursing her family when they needed extra care, she sorted cans for recycling back in Iowa and here in Hastings she got involved with ProAct and through that organization helped out with the laundry at Regina.

About eight years ago, a young relative was diagnosed with cancer — a Wilms’ tumor. Kyle Reed, the 4-year-old grandson of Bruce’s cousin, was still living in Iowa. McDermott was close to the family, and she even made the trip back to Iowa to go see Kyle.

During his fight, Kyle stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, and it gave McDermott an idea. She wanted to support the organization helping Kyle, so she started collecting pop tabs. Ronald McDonald House Charities collect pop tabs, deliver them to a recycling center and receive a check for the amount recycled. The RMHC Upper Midwest chapter raises about $30,000 a year through the program.

For McDermott, it was an easy way to make a difference.

“It was her mission in life,” said Barbara. “It was something she could do.”

Since launching her collection campaign, McDermott scours Regina for pop tabs. She started approaching other residents and employees, asking them to break off the tabs and give them to her. Her family and friends were enlisted to bring her their tabs and ask their neighbors to save them as well. She would even go through wastebaskets looking for cans that still had the tabs on them.

“I’ll collect them, you could say, like crazy,” McDermott said.

Four years ago, McDermott suffered a stroke that forced her to move into Regina’s nursing home. She lost her independence and needs help with more things, but she hasn’t given up on pop tab collecting. She still likes to make the rounds around Regina, although now she needs someone to go with her. But for the most part, it’s still something McDermott can do on her own. And as more and more people at Regina find out about her mission, they’re bringing her pop tabs sometimes by the bag. It doesn’t matter if someone brings one tab or 100, Barbara said, McDermott is just as thrilled. A few collection points have been set up at the hospital as well, Barbara said.

Now, McDermott has two large buckets full of the tabs, totaling about 32 pounds. The Gaylors will deliver them soon to the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, they said. They’ve helped deliver at least 18 pounds to the chapter in Iowa, as well.

Anyone who wants to help McDermott’s cause can donate pop tabs at the Hastings McDonalds restaurant, located at 1340 S. Frontage Road.