Volunteer Spotlight: Mary McFarland

Categories: Volunteer Spotlight


Did you know that Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of St. Louis invites people of all ages to collect aluminum tabs from beverage cans? These small tabs are recycled and turned into monetary donations thanks to Didon Orf Recycling. Annually, the Tab Top Program generates over $20,000.

Mary McFarland has been collecting tabs for Ronald McDonald House Charities of St. Louis for over 20 years. In 1959, before she was born, her family traveled from Rolla to St. Louis for her older brother to receive treatment at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Back then, the Ronald McDonald House didn’t exist. Only Mary’s parents were able to travel to be with her older brother, leaving behind her siblings and other family members.

Mary fell in love with RMHC upon learning the mission of providing a home-away-from-home. She knew the organization was exactly what her family had needed all those years ago. Inspired to give back, Mary learned about the Tab Top Program, and she was hooked.

“I’m always collecting,” Mary says. “It’s such a simple thing to do!”

She may not hold a traditional volunteer role, but Mary has worked hard to spread awareness about the Tab Top Program to the St. Louis community and beyond. She encourages everyone she knows to get involved: from her family in Oklahoma to sorority sisters in Texas, friends at trivia nights, neighbors and even strangers during vacation, telling them to “save the tab” from their soda can.

During her time as an aquatics and health teacher, Mary brought the world of RMHC to the students of Ritenour High School, showing them the importance of giving back to others while helping the environment. The news of her efforts quickly spread and the students started collecting tab tops across the entire Ritenour School District. Notably, in 2011, under her leadership, the district collected 32 boxes, which is equal to 228,000 tabs.

Each May, Mary attends our Annual Tap Top Pandemonium event at the Park Avenue Ronald McDonald House, along with her dog Zoey. Together, they enjoy the presence of other tab top collectors, just a short walk down the street from Cardinal Glennon, where her family once stayed.

If you are considering joining in the fun of collecting tab tops on behalf of RMHC, we leave you with these words of encouragement from Mary: “It doesn’t matter if it’s one or one hundred, every tab counts.”

Tab top travelerMary finding a tab in Beijing, China.