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Orange County Focus

COSTA MESA : Cans Converted to Aid for Students

August 29, 1994|TOM RAGAN

Bucky Pofahl never went to college, but at age 76 he's trying to help a few students through school--in an unconventional way.

With dew still on the ground and the sun just up, he can be seen stooping around the Orange Coast College campus collecting bottles and cans.

For the last four years, all the money he has made has gone to provide scholarships of $300 to $500 per student. Pofahl tries to give away at least two scholarships each year.

"It's the least I can do," said Pofahl, whose first name only the bank knows and whose nickname he picked up in the Army.

At first, Pofahl used to collect golf balls at municipal golf courses for money. But one day four years ago, he spotted a bunch of cans next to the dumpster at his Santa Ana apartment and thought to himself he might take a crack at that.

One can led to another and before he knew it he found himself on the college campus.

Now, all the security guards at the college know him. Professors know him. Administrators know him and so do college students, especially the ones to whom he has given money.

"The guy's just amazing to me, as old as he is and how much energy he has to cart all the cans and bottles around," said Mike Carey, who runs the recycling center on campus and sees Pofahl daily. "He gets up at the crack of dawn to do it, then still has the energy afterward to play basketball--or 'shooting hoops' as he refers to it."

Pofahl collects about 240 pounds of tin a week--more than 6,000 cans--and brings them to the recycling center, where he redeems them.

"And he does all this with no benefit to himself," Carey said. "He gets satisfaction out of giving money to others, that's what's so great about it all."

Bo Glover, 27, a biology major and recipient of Pofahl's generosity, got $300 last year, which he used for tuition and books. "With the increasing prices of college these days, it certainly came in handy," said Glover, who wants to publish an environmental magazine that would be mailed to 25,000 families in Newport Beach.

"I feel environmental education is going to be the way of the future," he added. "If kids start learning young, they'll appreciate the natural resources this country has and will carry it with them into adult life."

Pofahl, a retired lumber salesman of 46 years, agrees with Glover.

"But the kids, they've got to learn how to play ball," he said. "They've got to learn to put the cans in the slots of the (recycling) bins, or else it's just more work for me."

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