A group of Dubuque Hy-Vee employees ignored the rain Wednesday afternoon while loading about 150 containers filled with tabs from aluminum soda cans onto pallets set for a recycling center in Marion, Iowa.
Jim Conzett, frozen and dairy section manager from the Locust Street location, collected the tabs, which will be donated to benefit the Ronald McDonald House charities.
In 2012, Conzett’s grandson Kinnick Marks died of a heart defect after just one summer of life. Due to this condition, Kinnick spent most of his life at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City.
“My daughter and her husband pretty much lived in the Ronald McDonald House,” Conzett said, adding, “We found out what a great place it is for families who have kids in the Stead Family Hospital. It gives you some relief getting away from the hospital — someplace to get a decent night’s sleep, a shower, a decent meal.”
For the past six years, Conzett has collected the tabs, which the Ronald McDonald House exchanges for cash from recycling centers to be used for operating expenses.
“To keep Kinnick’s memory alive, I started saving tabs,” Conzett said. “I went back to Hy-Vee and asked if we could put a container in the break room for all the pop tabs. It grew from that.”
Now, other local Hy-Vee locations have started collecting tabs. Local schools also participate.
When he gets them, Conzett keeps the tabs in cake frosting buckets — from the Hy-Vee bakery department — stacked in the basement of his house. The lid of each bucket is labeled “Tabs in Memory of Kinnick Marks ‘2012.’”
Conzett said that in 2017, he drove two pickup beds full to Marion himself and raised $500.
During the past two years, his collection — which included a 35-gallon barrel from Thomas Jefferson Middle School — had grown too large for him to take to Marion himself. So he reached out to Store Director Jim Carney to ask if Hy-Vee could help.
“All I had to do was make one phone call to our distribution center,” Carney said. “Everybody’s on board because they know how passionate (Conzett) is and how wonderful the process is.”
Carney and a team of Hy-Vee department heads and Conzett’s family members filled three pickup beds and took them to the store. There, they placed them on pallets and wrapped them in plastic. A Hy-Vee truck will leave with the pallets full of buckets of tabs for Marion at 8 a.m. today.
Carney said it isn’t unusual for his employees to take on a cause, but Conzett stands out.
“(Conzett is) a passionate man,” Carney said. “You’re not going to deny him wanting to do good for an organization that does good for so many people who have youngsters who have to stay at the U of I children’s hospital with severe illnesses.”