Troy bottle & can collector provides comfort for veterans

LANSINGBURGH – You may have seen John Renas. He’s always out collecting bottles and cans.

He gets some from trash bins, the alleys and the park. Neighbors donate, too.

Some people see him and are quick to judge.

"Some laugh at you, you know," said Renas. "They say, ‘What are you doing, collecting bottles because you want a drink or something?’ They mock you, you know, but I let it go in one ear and out the other."

Renas does it all for others, with the support of his loving wife Fran.

He carefully cleans the containers and sorts them all in his garage.

"These people throw away tons of water," he said. "I average about six gallons a day of water that I use in my garden, I recycle into the garden."

The money he gets from returning the bottles and cans adds up to thousands of dollars. He uses that money to buy socks for veterans.

"And they love them because he says the veterans, nothing like having a brand new pair of socks on their feet," said Renas.

"And even when I went over to the park, there was a homeless vet there. He didn’t have any socks on, so I said look, I’ll be right back and went home here, and I got a dozen socks, and he was so thankful."

A lot of work goes into this effort. Renas also tears off the little metal tabs, and turns those in to collect money for another charity: the Ronald McDonald House.

He crushes non-returnables for that cause, too, keeping them out of landfills. He’d like to see New York put deposits on all aluminum cans.

The humble 82-year-old works in all kinds of weather, despite his arthritis and even after heart surgery.

He’s moved by what he hears about the struggles of veterans.

"I’m very sentimental on issues like that. I’ll start to tear up when they start to tell me stories like that, so that motivates me to keep going," he said.

A veteran himself, he’d like to think this might inspire others.

He says he’s going to keep collecting to give veterans comfort for as long as he can.