Beer and pop cans help the Lions club in Fort Frances

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

You may have noticed bags of cans piled in a backyard on First Street. The owners of the residence are not hoarders, they collect aluminum cans and sell them to help the Lions Club in Fort Frances.

Bill Michl and his son Travis have gathered and sold over 630,000 cans over four years, raising about $18,000 for the Lions Club since 2017.

Bill and Travis just shipped about 100,000 cans, but Travis is still left with 60,000 in his backyard. The cans collection project started in 2017, when the club decided to make it their centennial project.

Travis said they have always been piling the cans in his backyard, but the pile never got larger than the back of his garage. Bill said things changed in 2020.

“The pile only got big because of three things: COVID, the guy who collected the cans retired and COVID wouldn’t allow us to take it across the border. So we just kept piling on the place today,” Bill said.

Travis said some residences thought he was stockpiling garbage and others were concerned that someone would complain to the town.

Travis, left, and Bill Michl have been collected cans at Travis’s backyard to help raise money for the Lions Club. They are urging residents to dispose of their beer and pop cans at the three locations in town. -Merna Emara photo

“No one’s ever really complained or gave me a warning or notice,” Travis said, adding that the town has asked them once to get rid of the cans.

“I thought it was cool being a local landmark that everybody talked about,” Travis chuckled. “I just like to help. I’ve always been a helper and this is a nice way to help again on a larger scale.”

Bill said this is a tenth of what they could be making, adding that the restaurants are willing to donate their cans under the conditions that they be picked up every day.

“We just don’t have the manpower to do it,” Bill said. “Everybody’s blue boxes are full of pop and beer cans. It makes me mad because they know we collect them. But if we can get every single aluminum can that this town makes, we can make 10 times what we are making now.”

There are three locations around town that residents could use to dispose of their aluminum cans.

“We have one in the north end by the old Sixth Street School,” Bill said. “We have one on Portage Avenue, First Street street corner of the old high school area and we have one out by the Canadian Tire parking lot.”

Bill said the money goes to the Lions Club and back to the community.

Bill is retired, but he is a very community-driven individual, helping people that can’t buy groceries and volunteering at the Family Centre. Bill is also president of the Volunteer Bureau.

“My day starts when the first telephone rings in the morning,” Bill said. “I’m retired, but I do not get any days off.”

Although they are in dire need for members, Bill said, they will continue collecting the cans and making a difference in the community.

“Until you see how the club works and that you want to understand but it’s just a group of people that are trying to give back to the community and trying to make the world a little better place,” Bill added.