The News Site of Fresno City College

The Rampage Online

The News Site of Fresno City College

The Rampage Online

The News Site of Fresno City College

The Rampage Online

81 Year Old “Dot” Digs in Trash to Aid Students

You may mistake her for a dumpster diver, or someone who cannot afford her rent.

You may even think she is out of work or disabled because she limps from two artificial hips.

No matter what you think you know of the feisty little can lady who is a very familiar sight at Fresno City College, it is far from her real life story.

The true story of 81 year old Dorothy “Dot” Sedley is about grace, sacrifice, service, and most of all giving back.

Dot was born on the day the stock market crashed, Oct. 29, 1929. Her father passed away in 1936 and left her mother and 7 children behind ranging between the ages of 5-15. The three youngest children were sent to a boarding school for orphans where she attended 6th grade through high school.

Dot attended California State University San Francisco in 1946 for three semesters before she dropped out and eventually got married. Dot finally decided to go back to college and graduated with her Bachelors Degree at 40 years old. Dot received a phone interview for a job at West Virginia University and was hired.

The can collecting started in 1988 when Dorothy (Dot) Sedley was working at West Virginia University; she would take walks during the day in the mostly rural area. She got the idea of picking up cans and bottles from her daughter who would use the money that they received from recycling as a fundraiser for a club. Dot decided to help out and she eventually started picking up cans and bottles that she would find during her walks to help out her daughter.

“I collected the bottles and cans that I found and then I kept calling my daughter to come pick them up and she wouldn’t, so eventually I took them down to the recycling and I had $88. I rounded the money off to $100 and instead of giving it to my daughter I gave it to a colleague who had a scholarship fund at West Virginia for adult women going back to school.” While in the orphan boarding school, “I always dreamt that someday a little old woman would find me and realize how smart I was and help put me through college, but the little old lady never showed up,” Dot said.

Once Dot retired from West Virginia and moved back to California she continued scavenging in the trash cans and on walks for cans and bottles to recycle. She didn’t continue to scavenge for a way of income, but instead started donating to local charities until she stumbled upon Fresno City College.

She started scavenging at Fresno City College and once she had enough money saved up from collecting she started donating money back. “I would come on club rush day and I would walk up to the different booths and ask them who they were and what they do and they would tell me and then I would write a check out for $50 to the club and be on my way,” Dot said.

“After awhile someone approached me and recommended that I start a scholarship fund rather than handing out $50 to each club,” she said, “But I knew that scholarship funds are expensive to start because of my colleague from West Virginia, so I thought about it for awhile.”

“While I was thinking about whether or not to start the scholarship fund I realized that I had a few CDs that were about to mature and I decided that I would do it so I gave the first payment of $5,000 and then a second payment of $5,000 and another $700 so that the endowment didn’t have to gain interest before we could give away a scholarship.”

Dot started the Go Green Scholarship Fund and gave out her first scholarship of $500 last year. This year they were able to give away two scholarships worth $500 each.

“I started the scholarship fund, but I have a lot of helpers.” Dot said. “I like to call them my elves.”

Helpers include everyone from the Associated Student Government to Science teachers on campus.

Dot has also received a Volunteer Pass that allows her to go into the buildings and go to her elves and pick up the cans and bottles that they have collected. “Most everyone has been very cordial, kind, and helpful from the administration,” Dot said.

“What I want students to know, though, is that there are 100s of scholarships that are available to them and many of the scholarships go unclaimed. All the students have to do is ask for a list of them or go onto the website.”

She said, “I have had students approach me in the past and ask me a couple main questions, first, ‘Do you mind if I ask how old you are?,’ second ‘Why do you collect cans?’ and third, ‘Why are you always running?’ I always tell them how old I am—81—and then I go on to explain that I collect cans because I don’t have to. If I had to collect cans I wouldn’t do it. Not to mention that if I don’t tire myself out either physically or mentally then I cannot sleep at night—literally I cannot fall asleep. For the third question sometimes I “get smart” and I tell them ‘I am old and I don’t have much time left,’ but most of the time I ask why they’re not running. Just like it is normal for you to walk, it is normal for me to run.”

Dot brought special bins onto campus that are for recycling only. The big blue cans with white dome tops as well as the metal square recycling bins she personally comes through and picks up the bottles and cans that are in it. “The worst part of picking up bottles and cans is when the people stuff their chip bags, muffin wrappers, and candy wrappers inside of their bottles, because then I have to try to pick them out.” Dot said. “Sometimes I have to cut the bottle open to get the trash out. The absolute worst thing I have to pull out of bottle is Kleenex. I hate pulling that out because I don’t want to touch it, but I won’t let the bottle go to waste.”

Dot said, “If you want to help please wait until you see my special bins. They are by the library, the vending machines, and the science building. Also, please don’t put your trash inside the bottles or cans. If you collect your bottles or cans and have a bag that you want to give to me you’re more than welcome to approach me and let me know. I like to call those situations “special deliveries.”

While Dot continues to be the ‘little old lady that is coming to help put a student through college’, she said her next mission is “to gain exclusive rights to play in the trash.”

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