The lives of some Milwaukee area women seem to be revolving around a lot of plastic lately.
“Soda, laundry, toothpaste, peanut butter, cream cheese lids, spray paint caps and more,” said September Schubilske, Service Commission Chair, for the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. “These are all being collected to a recycling location to buy wheelchairs for disabled children.”
Schubilske explained the plastic caps, a different grade of plastic from the bottles, are valuable in bulk. They can be sold to companies
If you wish to help
Caps are being collected at St. Mary Parish
using recycled “post-consumer” plastic to create products such as park benches and plastic paint cans. Just about every cap is useful, but it is necessary to remove the paper liners before donating the caps or they are unable to be recycled.
“The National Council of Catholic Women brought it to our attention and it has been very successful. There were other provinces around the country that collected large containers of caps that needed large trucks to be able to ship them all and they were able to get major companies to donate trucks to help with this,” she said of the collection begun locally about five months ago. “We already have quite a few donations. We are in the beginning of the process and are having everyone bring their caps to St. Mary Visitation in Elm Grove and place them in the Caps of Love container. We hope to send truckloads down to the headquarters Lake Worth, Florida, where they will take them to be recycled.”
According to Jean Kelly, province director, Province of Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, when the national board met in June, the organization voted to make Caps of Love as their service commission project.
“We have had a great reaction to this project,” she said. “The women are saying that these are things we usually throw away and are surprised that they can be used to help disabled children.”
Caps of Love, started by Valerie Jones-Mathieu, was the only U.S branch of the European-based charity ‘Bouchons d’Amour’ dedicated to helping the disabled. Founded and sponsored by Jean-Marie Bigard in 2001, Bouchon d’Amour is responsible for collecting discarded plastic caps and lids for delivery to a recycling plant where the plastic is sold. The money raised from the plastic caps provides wheelchairs for disabled children. The international division of the charity also provides service dogs.
“I learned about Bouchons d’Amour while I was visiting family in Europe about eight years ago,” said Mathieu. “I have been at it ever since.”
Mathieu, a Catholic, finds that helping to raise funds for disabled children is a meaningful way to live her faith. She has no children of her own, but is compelled to better the lives of low-income disabled children.
“I think it is the perfect opportunity to help the less fortunate children and take care of the earth at the same time,” she said. “It is my calling.”
At 26 cents per pound, it takes about 48 tons of plastic caps to pay for a wheelchair, and that is if the plastic caps contain no metal, paper liners or opaque water caps.
“The opaque water bottle caps are of a different grade of plastic and will lower the value of the shipment if they are mixed in,” said Mathieu. According to her website, capsoflove.com, the opaque water caps are accepted, but must be kept separate from the others.
She has donated 10 wheelchairs — four new and six used — that range in price from $1,500 to $25,000, if new. The demand is great.
“Many low-income children suffer needlessly because they can’t afford wheelchairs or have outgrown the ones they have,” explained Mathieu. “I recently donated two to a high school for autistic students in Martin County (Florida) and two high-end ($7,500) wheelchairs were just fitted to young (students with cerebral palsy) at the Royal Palm School.”
Deciding who will receive the wheelchairs is challenging and Mathieu is utilizing a waiting list of needy students at the Royal Palm School.
“That school has been collecting plastic caps longer than all of the others and fits the mission of my charity,” she said. “Other wheelchairs that they cannot use will go to other children as I learn of them. I am also partnering with another charity, ‘Wheels 4 Kids,’ that buys wheelchairs for children in the west coast of Florida.”
Working together with hundreds of volunteers is rewarding for Mathieu who spends many hours in her Caps of Love ministry in addition to a full-time management job.
“I am worked silly with this charity, but am so fulfilled that it is all worth it,” she said. “God does not give you more than you can handle and I am learning time management skills, patience and the power of being on a mission to see this charity to fruition. Only good can come from this.”
According to service commission chair, Nancy Poll, National Council of Catholic Women Province Director for the Province of Louisville, there have been concerns about the validity of Caps of Love.
“For some reason, the rumor is going around that it is a fraud,” she said. “It is not a fraud; people who Google it or go to Snopes.com are not reading carefully. There are several Caps programs which claim they assist cancer patients with chemo or prosthetic limbs for soldiers; please don’t confuse them with Caps of Love USA founded by Valerie Jones-Mathieu.”
For information on Caps of Love, or to set up a collection bin in a parish or school, contact Schubilske at September3t@yahoo.com.