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Sept. 13, 2003

Links to the SOUTH SHORE

nickel at a time. Since 1989, Bob O’Leary has raised more than $12,000 for the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation.

Each month, the 73-year-old Braintree resident makes the rounds of homes of friends, relatives and just about anyone he knows in Greater Boston willing to stash away soda cans, beer bottles and other recyclables worth 5 cents a pop. He fills up his trunk, and sometimes his back seat, and then carts the empties off to a redemption center.
Bob O'Leary of Braintree donates the proceeds of collecting bottle and cans to the foundation.

He sends the proceeds - at least $200 a month - to the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation. If he falls short of collecting 4,000 cans, he chips in his own money to make up the difference.

“I’m just a deliveryman, the can man,” the widower and father of four insists. “I get enjoyment out of doing it because I know it’s going to the needy. It’s a group effort.”

So far this year, O’Leary has raised $2,678. Last year his donations totaled $3,852.

A retired Boston police sergeant, O’Leary began his collection effort in 1982. He and some other parishioners at St. Mark’s Church in Dorchester decided good money was going to waste because cans from church functions were simply being trashed. The group set out to change that and dubbed themselves the St. Mark’s Salvage Crew.

For the first few years, the parishioners donated the cash to a priest who worked with the poor in Brazil. When the priest died a few years later, a friend told O’Leary about the St. Boniface foundation.

O’Leary has never been to Haiti and knows little about the country. The only pictures he has seen were in a newsletter published by the St. Boniface foundation. He has never even met the people who run the organization. But he knows this: Haiti is among the world’s poorest countries. And that’s enough.

“If they’re in that range they can use all the help they can get,” he said.

Karen Eschbacher may be reached at

Stories by
Karen Eschbacher
Photos by
Gary Higgins

The Patriot Ledger

Matters of Life and Death: A Punishing Poverty

Matters of Life and Death: A Road Too Long

Timeline of Help

Links to the South Shore of Masschusetts: How People Here are Helping

Faces of Haiti: Profile of Haitian Dr. Jean Baptiste

Reporter's Notebook

Numbers That Count: Health Care

Small map of Haiti (90KB)

Large map of Haiti (100KB)

Photos from Haiti (541KB)

View printed pages from the series

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