(Operation Smile) Ouellette said collecting cans made him a bit uncomfortable at first, as people looked at him like he was a vagrant, but because he knows how much good he is doing with the money he continues to collect recyclables and tells everyone he encounters why he is collecting cans. As he walks and collects cans, he hands out Operation Smile marketing materials to spread the word and shows pictures of children Operation Smile has helped when people ask why he is collecting cans.
Volunteer Collects 100,000 Cans to Raise 19 Smiles
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SEPTEMBER 02, 2009
Operation Smile

George Ouellette may be retired after 40 years as a salesman, but he still works up to six or seven hours per day walking through parks, hillsides, along busy roads and even rummaging through garbage cans to collect cans and bottles to help create smiles for children in need. The 84-year-old collects enough cans and bottles to equal $250, reimbursable for five-cents each at the local recycling center, and then writes a check to Operation Smile for the full amount.
Since 2005, Ouellette has collected over 100,000 cans, raising a total of $4,440 and providing 19 surgeries for children suffering from clefts. He collects around 1,000 cans a week year-round. Even the winter season in Chelmsford, Mass., doesn’t slow down his mission as he wears flannel-lined jeans to keep warm.
Ouellette first started volunteering and supporting Operation Smile when he saw a television show on Operation Smile in 2005. Ouellette could not believe that a child’s cleft lip or cleft palate could be repaired for only $240.
“The work of Operation Smile struck a chord in my dad and he decided that this would be his job - his purpose,” said Sue Ouellette, his eldest daughter.
Now, the employees at the recycling center know Ouellette so well that they don’t even bother to count the cans anymore – they merely ask him how many he has and give him the money. Ouellette’s 90-year-old wife supports his cause as the bookkeeper for the funds he raises.
Ouellette said collecting cans made him a bit uncomfortable at first, as people looked at him like he was a vagrant, but because he knows how much good he is doing with the money he continues to collect recyclables and tells everyone he encounters why he is collecting cans.
As he walks and collects cans, he hands out Operation Smile marketing materials to spread the word and shows pictures of children Operation Smile has helped when people ask why he is collecting cans. Ouellette is sure to mention that a child’s smile can be transformed for only $240.
In sharing his cause while collecting cans, Ouellette has developed a circuit of other supporters who save cans for him. He often makes his “rounds” to collect them and then he collects his own supply.
Ouellette also has the support of his four grown children, who buy him warm clothes and items for collecting cans and bottles as holiday gifts.
“My dad was a hard-working salesman for many years. However, he felt like he had not done enough to give back to the world, even after raising and educating four children,” said Sue Ouellette. “He’s not only an amazing father and volunteer; he’s an inspiration to anyone.”
www.operationsmile.org