Mexican Awareness Through Association Club Gives Back To Community

Mexican Awareness Through Association Club Gives Back To Community

MATA members weigh pop tabs


CONTACT Cara Wilwerding, Communications Manager

OFFICE 402-479-5712 |

June 15, 2017 (Lincoln, Neb.) – One group at the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP) is filling totes with generosity – approximately 30 pounds of aluminum generosity.

The Mexican Awareness Through Association (MATA) club is collecting pop tabs to donate to the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), which houses families of children receiving out-of-town medical treatment. There are 315 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide, and Omaha’s chapter can house up to 20 families at one time.

“I think it’s a great thing for incarcerated individuals to focus on giving back to the community when they’re in the situation they’re in,” said NSP Clubs Coordinator Jeff Strom.

Strom, alongside coworker Katie Lee, delivered the first batch of pop tabs to the house on Wednesday, June 14. RMHC Volunteer and Events Manager Emily Moser said the money raised from pop tab donations literally keeps their lights on.

“We collect tabs, get them recycled and the money from that is used to offset our utilities,” RMHC Marketing and Communications Coordinator Hunter Samuels said.

The nonprofit is almost entirely donation-based with only a small percentage of funding coming from the McDonalds Corporation. Help from volunteers is also vital in keeping day-to-day operations going.

“We’ve got kids who have spent more time here than in their own homes,” Samuels said.

While the MATA fundraiser officially started in January, individuals throughout the facility have kept their own personal collections for years. Competition has kicked in, causing the fundraiser to flourish throughout the past few months.

“To me, they seem really dedicated,” Strom said. “They’re asking all sorts of people if they’re collecting pop tabs.”

In addition to asking individuals, the 50 to 60 club members that make up MATA promoted the fundraiser by placing flyers and collection bins in each housing unit. Staff members and incarcerated individuals have banded together to make it a success.

“It’s kind of nice seeing the staff and incarcerated individuals completing a project together,” said Lee, who was instrumental in getting the project off the ground. “Even the administration is involved.”

Wednesday’s donation contained over 47,000 pop tabs, but the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) is not stopping there. Strom signed the MATA Club up for Ronald McDonald House’s “Thanks A Million Club,” which rewards groups that donate one million pop tabs with a certificate and small placard in the house. The current record holders boast 12 million tabs donated.

“Little things can blossom and become great things,” MATA club president Juan Luis Leonor said. “I think it’s something spectacular; something that shows the heart of people when you show them a good deed. The cause is really something that shows what they’re made of.”

MATA club Vice President Alberto Magallanes sees the fundraiser as not only a way to help Nebraska’s community, but as a way to improve the community inside of NSP as well.

“It’s not a single person’s effort; it’s everyone’s effort,” he said. It’s not just members of MATA, but the NSP community.”