Judith Hodges is given her Time to Care Award by Richard Rogers. (May 5, 2010 / WRDW-TV)
News 12 at 6 o'clock, May 5, 2010
THOMSON, Ga.---Our Time To Care winner for May is a self proclaimed "Dumpster Diva". Judith Hodges doesn't mind getting dirty if it means raising money for Maxwell Elementary School in Thomson, Ga. And that's where we had a big surprise waiting for her.
Everybody at Maxwell Elementary in Thomson was in on this one. Everyone except Judith Hodges. The cafeteria was full of staff members, friends and family when she walked in. The ovation brought her to tears.
Judith is a parent here and a volunteer. We can't even sit down to talk-- without somebody wanting to talk to her about trash. Her daughter wantered up as we were beginning the interview.
"Mommy, where's the trash can?" she asked.
"Sweetie, the trash can is over there!" Judith told her with a laugh.
Her talent is finding money. Where you see trash, she sees cash.
"And we get recycle stuff like the chip bags and ink cartridges and stuff."
Judith hits these hallways two or three times a week with her side-kick and fellow "Dumpster Diva", Alice Gary.
"Well, we collect it up and Terra Cycle, which is the company we send it to- they take it and turn it into other stuff and send us the money for it," Hodges said.
They visit every classroom and usually find a bag of trash hanging there, waiting for them to recycle. And she doesn't just do it at school.
"You know, my husband will look at me and say- are you gonna do this tonight? We'll be out with friends and I'll say I need this chip bag- then they'll go ok, sure and we wind up with everybody's in the restaurant."
Their work doesn't just keep stuff out of our landfills, it generates money for the school. A lot of money.
Donna Bennett is Principal of Maxwell Elementary School.
"Anyone who will dig through trash cans on a Friday night after a football game, definitely deserves this award," Bennett told us.
That's where you'll find them on Saturday mornings in the Fall.
"There's a lot of Nacho Cheese involved. But it's not bad. It's really not as bad as it seems," Hodges says.
Spend a little time talking with Judith, and she'll change the way you look at things, like empty chip bags.
"That's money, two cents a piece," Hodges says. And that's just from this company that we've raised 12 hundred dollars. We raised almost two thousand dollars in box tops that you can find on zip-lock bags and that kind of thing."
Principal Bennett was skeptical when she first heard about Hodges plan.
"And anybody who can set a goal for three thousand dollars to raise in this time and you've far surpassed that with over five thousand dollars and still going-- we have two weeks left, y'all," Bennett told the crowd of teachers.
Two weeks. Judith says that's enough time to hit six thousand dollars.
"Absolutely, we don't pass a trash can without wanting to go through it," Hodges admits.
In a school year when budget cuts dominated the news, she quietly went about collecting trash and raising money. And she thought no one would notice.
"Well, I don't do this for anything like this (award)," Hodges told the crowd in the cafeteria. "I love all you guys. So thank you!"
And of course, we want to thank our Time To Care partners who make this award possible. Subway, Troy University and Ashley Furniture. If you want to nominate someone for our Time To Care Award, you can do that here.