Turning Trash Into Liquid Assets

In a world where people often expect instant results, Maisie DeVore stood out. Bob McNamara reported on DeVore's 30-year effort to raise money for her community and have a pool built, in a story first broadcast on July 22, 2001.

To turn used tin cans into liquid assets and dreams into reality isn't easy. But it can be done, and has been done by a determined woman named Maisie DeVore.

It was the biggest day of DeVore's life. The high school band and her little hometown of Eskridge, Kan., was honoring this 82-year-old's one-woman crusade. And even those who once called her "Crazy Maisie" were there to open the town's new swimming pool.

The pool was DeVore's 30-year-long dream and it was named in her honor.

Asked if the 30-year collection effort was worth it, DeVore told Bob McNamara, "Well, I knew it could be done. It just took a lot longer for this."

It was the kids in Eskridge that inspired Maisie's drive for a pool. "This is all they've got, is a ball program. That's the only thing they've got for kids. And every kid isn't ball-minded; they don't want to play ball. But there's not very many that don't like to swim," she said.

And so it began. The day DeVore discovered there was cash in aluminum cans, she launched her mission to start saving for a pool. If she wasn't combing the town streets for cans, she and her rickety old pickup were scouring every back road in the county.

Every trash bin was on her radar, rain or shine.

And farmers, like Peggy Miller, gave her cans. "You can't keep her down. She's always doing something, you know? She's a woman that's, well, she's raised four kids, been through two husbands, so she's just a hard-working country woman. That's all there is to it. Yep. I'm proud of her for doing it, 'cause it hasn't been easy," Miller said.

But the harder Maisie worked over the years, the more her daughter Marilyn worried. "It just kept on and on, and some days she'll come here for lunch, you know, she's so exhausted she can hardly eat. And then, 'No, I've got to go - We've got to mush more cans,'" Marilyn explained.

DeVore says her children - especially Marilyn - discouraged her all the time from picking up cans. Asked what Marilyn would say, DeVore said, "'Mom, you're never going to get that swimming pool. You might just as well quit that.' Yeah, they told me that, but I don't go down and tell them what to do."

For some people, it was sad seeing a woman chasing what they saw as a hopeless dream. "They've always made fun of me in Eskridge, but I really don't care. Doesn't make that much difference to me," DeVore said.

"I can remember when Rod and I first started dating. That was probably about 10 or 11 years ago. And he had told me about his grandma," says Ladeen Allen, who married Maisie's grandson and was as skeptical as everybody else. "I never came right out and told her I thought she was nuts, but I said, 'You know, Maisie, are you going to be okay with this if it doesn't happen?' 'It's gonna happen. It's gonna happen.'"

Years earlier, DeVore said she wasn't discouraged by not having met the goal yet. "Oh, I don't know. I'm not a person that gets downbeat very often," she said. "You can let anything get you down if you want to. I think it's just your own attitude. If you think you can do it, usually one way or another you can get it done.

And if you think you can't do it, you won't do it."

If you look at Maisie's pool fund bank account records over the last three decades, you get an idea of how, can by can, the nickels and dimes and dollars at a time added up to more than six million cans collected, 90 tons' worth, and put more than $83,000 in the bank.

And on the days she wasn't collecting or shipping another load to the recycling center, Maisie crocheted Afghans and made quilts to raffle off.

She collected and sold scrap metal, or she poked through the bushes picking wild berries to sell as homemade jams and jellies to grow the pool fund even bigger.

"Every hundred dollars helps. Ten of those and you've got a thousand," DeVore said.

After raising a total of $100,000, the state of Kansas added a $73,000 grant, and the pool's construction finally began before Maisie's eyes just across the street from her own home.

Her dream was coming to life.

"I just really couldn't comprehend that it was actually going to come to pass. Even though you thought it was, it still gives you a funny feeling. They've got a long ways to go to put tile all the way around that," she said.

"People call her Amazing Maisie, and there's a real truth to it," one man told CBS News. "For 30 years, she kept her dream alive; and she not only kept the dream alive, she kept her heart and her tenderness and her love for people alive."

"What do you suppose the most satisfaction is that you've gotten out of this?" McNamara asked.

"Well, I think the most satisfaction is I'll get to watch kids swim, have fun," DeVore said. "They said, 'The noise will bother you.' I said, 'The noise won't bother me one bit.' I don't care how much they holler!"

For more info:

  • Maisie's Community Swimming Pool