Empty Bottles Provide for Needy Kallahs

By Naomi Schwartz
On December 26, 2011

Anyone can make a difference in the world, not by spending extra money or donating hours of our time to volunteer work, but by using readily accessible resources that would otherwise be considered trash.

On that note, ever wonder how many bottles of soda students at Stern College consume per day? Sarah Ganchrow and her roommates recognized the sheer amount of bottles that pass through the Stern Caf daily and decided to make a charity case out of it. The red boxes situated all around the Stern and Syms buildings aren't just there for decoration. They are there waiting to collect soda and water bottle caps for Kaps4Kallahs, an organization started to help brides in need of funds.

The number of bottles of soda consumed per day by students at Stern College is less than 1000, but not by much.  Workers stocking the fridges in both cafeterias confirm that 35 24-bottle crates of soda are needed to refill the giant refrigerators in SCW daily. This means that on average, Stern girls drink about 840 bottles of soda each and every day, a staggering number considering our relatively small student body.  

    Both cafeterias were quick to assure me that the number of water bottles sold was even greater than the number of soda bottles, and don't worry, the purpose of this article isn't to advertise a new exercise club or a new healthy-eating campaign. 840 bottles is not a criticism, it is a fact. It's what Stern can do with these bottles after they are empty that interests me, though. We can make a difference in the world by using what we already have, and would have otherwise just thrown away.

    During Reading Week of Fall 2009, SCW student Sarah Ganchrow and her roommates were staring at the "MyCokeRewards" label on a soda bottle, and they were inspired. Regular Americans use Coke bottle cap points to "purchase" household items for themselves, noticed Ganchrow, and "it suddenly hit [her] that we could do the same thing [with our bottle caps,]… except on a larger scale, for needy brides."

It all snowballed from there. Each code on a Coke cap (or Diet Coke cap, or Coke Zero cap, or Sprite/Diet Sprite cap, or Fanta/Diet Fanta cap, or Powerade cap) is worth three points towards prizes once typed into Coke's website, and the roommates set a goal of collecting enough points to purchase something that would be useful to a new bride, such as a set of pots or pans. Most worthwhile prizes, however, cost over 1500 points/500 bottles of soda, and that's when Ganchrow and her roommates decided to turn the project over to Stern. A few girls can't drink 500 bottles of soda, they reasoned, but an entire college full of them can, and thus, with the advertising help of Laure Salabi, Goldie Spetner, Tziona Rosenzveig, and Leah Portman, Kaps4Kallahs was born.

Once the goal of hachnosas kallah [assisting a new couple in setting up their home] was established, the next step was to find an appropriate organization to donate the items to. They discovered that Down the Aisle, a kallah gemach[free loan society] in Passaic, New Jersey was always willing to accept more items for needy brides, providing that the items were new and still packaged. Since Down the Aisle encourages donations of any unneeded household items, they don't often receive complete sets, and therefore Kaps4Kallahs's contributions were really appreciated.

"No one gave us an entire set of pots until Kaps4Kallahs came around," reported Onit Brodsky-Zisserman, one of Down the Aisle's coordinators. "They contacted us and asked us if we wanted to accept a donation – they already had all of the points necessary – and I was very excited [to say yes]," she explained. Whenever the appropriate amount of points is collected, Kaps4Kallahs lets Onit know that she should expect a delivery, and away it goes: Coke even pays for the shipping. To this day, Kaps4Kallahs has donated seven mixing bowl sets, a set of pots and pans, a stainless steel utensil set, an ice cream scoop, a sandwich maker, and a salad spinner, for a total of over 26,000 points collected!

Kaps4Kallahs has made it easy for you to donate your codes and join in the mitzvah. You can email the codes to kaps4kallahs@gmail.com, type the codes into their website at tinyurl.com/kaps4kallah, text the codes to 917-742-9198, or simply drop your caps into the red boxes found all over the school (in the main cafeteria and on the front desk of the Syms building, to name a few) and they'll type in the codes for you. You can collect the caps at any time: Rav Doniel Neustadt of Detroit has paskened[made a halakhic ruling] that one can even collect them on Shabbos in order to send them in afterwards. Every cap makes a difference, and with the hundreds of soda bottles emptied each day in Stern, we can really help Klal Yisrael, one kallahat a time. To put it in the words of Kaps4Kallahs' slogan: "Drink a Coke—do a mitzvah. Spread the Cappenation."

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