Ahwatukee teen exceeds bottle drive goal again


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Jan 23, 2024

Ahwatukee teen exceeds bottle drive goal again

Desert Vista High rising senior Elia Woods is surrounded by some of the nearly

Desert Vista High rising senior Elia Woods is surrounded by some of the nearly 40 collection boxes she located strategically throughout Ahwatukee and 14 other communities to collect reusable water bottles for needy people. (Special to AFN)

For the second consecutive year, an Ahwatukee teen and rising Desert Vista High School senior exceeded her goal for collecting reusable water bottles for unsheltered people.

Elia Woods, 17, conducted the month-long drive in April, collecting cash on her website, the recyclingproject.org, and strategically locating 40 collection boxes throughout Ahwatukee and 14 other communities for donations of new and gently used reusable water bottles she could distribute to two nonprofits that serve people without homes.

Her goal was to collect around 1,300 – which was double the number she collected last year. The 678 bottles she collected in 2022, in fact, far outnumbered the 200 she had hoped to garner.

This year, she again exceeded her goal, collecting 1,500 bottles that will be distributed to needy people by St. Vincent de Paul and Arizona State University's Project Humanities – the latter founded and directed by Ahwatukee professor Dr. Neal Lester.

Because she collected so many hydro flasks, plastics, glass, aluminum and stainless-steel bottles, Elia sought assistance and 25 volunteers rose to the occasion.

Each bottle was individually hand washed and sanitized by volunteers from Boy Scout troops 78 and 3014 and the Sustainability Club at Desert Vista High School.

The goal of the drive and TheRecyclingProject.org is two-fold: Reduce the amount of single-use plastic on the street and provide those experiencing homelessness with access to water.

The idea came to Elia last year while volunteering with her family at Paz de Cristo in Mesa.

When dinner was served to the people there, Elia noticed that most only had an old Circle K cup or a crinkled plastic water bottle with them. Most were coming back to the water dispenser several times to refill small styro-foam cups.

Elia and her volunteers said they wanted to publicly thank Spooner Physical Therapy, Chandler/Gilbert & Tempe YMCA, Colleen Rinker from the Ahwatukee YMCA, Treasures 4 Teachers, Chandler Dental, Music Maker Workshops, Mountainside Martial Arts, Zzeeks Pizza locations, TLC Pediatrics, Awaken Chiropractic, AZ All-Stars Cheer and Tumbling and Chris’ Water and Ice for their support.

While the annual water bottle collection has ended, money can be donated for water refill stations at: therecyclingproject.org

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