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Portland family using BottleDrop program to help pay for kids' college

BottleDrop, the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, has a Save for Education program. One Portland family is using it to build community and help pay for college.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon's statewide recycling cooperative, BottleDrop, has a program that transfers bottle and can refunds to an Oregon College Savings Plan

One Southwest Portland family is using can collection to connect with their community, and using the Save for Education program to help ensure their kids will go to college.

Ceci Branam is getting ready to walk her dog, Francis. The 9-year-old says Francis needs lots of walks. But Wednesday afternoon, it’s all about recycling, saving and investing.

The cans she's collecting and their Oregon 10-cent recycling value are part of Ceci’s plans for the future. 

"I want to go to college, graduate school," she said. "I really like math."

It’s part of the Branam family's plan to pay for higher education, 10 cents at a time.

Neighbors support Ceci and her 5-year-old brother Eli. Fliers were made and given out saying the Branams offer COVID-safe can collection. They redeem them, and the money goes toward saving accounts for college. Plus there’s the community connection.

"I love this idea. I think it's a great idea," said neighbor Dara Wilk. "And I love how she and her brother are both contributing to their future."

Just go to the Save for Education program, open an account, set up transfers and build your balance through recycling work, and interest. 

"They're tax-advantaged ways to save for college, where the growth in the account grows tax free," said Bottle Drop spokesperson Eric Chambers. "People are able to put that to use for all sorts of education purposes."

RELATED: Are your cans and bottles counted accurately? We tested BottleDrop

"Yes, it goes straight to our 529," Ceci said, "which is our college savings account."

Since it started 15 months ago, 1,600 Oregonians have signed on to the program, investing more than $210,000 dollars in their futures.

"You can take something that's very big and expensive like going to college, and you can break it down into small parts," said Ceci's father, John Branam.

After 20 years, he just paid off his college loans. He knows it's good to start saving now and better to do it near home.

"We would be providing a service to them," he said. "Building community in the process, and saving for college, and so it's sort of a win-win."

During the recent winter storm, the Branam's "Cans for College" effort continued, a sign of their commitment. Even Francis the sled dog contributed.

The college account is building: 10 cents a can, $9 a bag, up to $50 in a weekend. Then add grandpa's agreement to match each month's total, plus mom and dad will double that amount.

The young Branams are college-bound.