TV & Radio
At Your Service
GULF TIMES FEATURES
Sunday, September 30, 2007
The man with
a 'can-do' spirit
CAN anyone make a difference at a
school that's tiny and shrinking, in
a sleepy town north of nowhere?
One man can, and can, and can, and
It's been three years now. After a close
brush with death, John Dreves has daily
and deliberately collected returnable cans
and bottles in and around Paradise,
Michigan. He keeps
track of his
achievements the way a basketball coach
keeps stats on his team.
Once, when he was healthier, Dreves
taught kids how to get the ball through the
hoop. Now, he does what he can.
On the day we meet, he pulls a bulky
black bag of returnables from a designated
bin at a convenience store. Then, in the
parking lot, he draws from his wallet a
folded strip of white paper. From it he
begins to read to me:
"On July 6, I took back 92. On July 11,
I took back 412. On July 12, I took back
473. On July 16, I took back 512."
I stop him. What counts is his running
total of returnables: 87,740.
A week later, this past Tuesday, it's up
Laid end to end, that's more than nine
miles of discarded containers. Each is
worth a lousy dime. But together, wow.
Dreves handles all empties at least
twice draining and sorting them, then
popping them into machines at any of
about 10 stores. Each dollar goes to the
shoestring sports programme at Whitefish
Township School in Paradise.
Its enrollment, kindergarten through
12th grade, is a mere 55 boys and girls.
Its gym is so small spectators must try
to keep their feet tucked out of bounds.
Its young athletes, in all their awkward
promise, are beloved to him.
Dreves (rhymes with sleeves) is known
in town as the Can Man.
He's more than a scrounger. He
manages several plastic trashcans hand-
lettered with his mission, placed around
Paradise, including its town hall and the
popular Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.
Dreves advertises himself on yellow
flyers as a picker-upper of your party's