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Senior Recycles for a Good Cause


Ann Van Harten doesn’t let her age keep her from making a difference in her community and the world.


Ann Van Harten recycles at Elim Village.
Maria Van Harten

Van Harten, 86, is a humble woman, but she knows that God can use the small and humble to make a difference. That’s why she started picking up empty bottles and cans over 17 years ago while she was out walking: she knew recycling was good for the environment, and the nickels and dimes she collected could go to a good cause.

Van Harten is a member of Fleetwood Christian Reformed Church in Surrey, British Columbia, where regular collections are held for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, to which Van Harten decided to contribute her recycling refunds. “I liked the idea that many churches are working together to support the Foodgrains Bank,” she explained, “and our money is multiplied through the Canadian government.”

In 2001, Van Harten moved to Elim Village, a Christian retirement community next door to the church, and her recycling program gradually expanded along with the growing seniors’ complex.

In the last 11 years, Van Harten has helped recycle about 210,000 items and collected more than $17,600 for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. With government matching, this means she and her fellow seniors have raised more than $88,000 for hunger relief programs around the world.

Van Harten now needs a bit of help from her daughter, Maria Van Harten, to bring the bottles and cans to the recycling depot, but she is reluctant to give up her project. “I love to be doing something useful,” she said. “It also means I have to get out of my comfortable chair and get some exercise!”

Just further proof of the power of a few humble nickels and dimes.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is operated by 15 churches and church-based agencies, including the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. Donated funds are matched four-to-one by the Canadian government.

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