trash

Lucian Acuff of Chantilly is a retired Navy veteran, and four years ago, found another way to give his time back to others. 

“I collect things that people throw away every day,” said Acuff. “Then I turn it into cash for Brookfield Elementary School.” 

It all started in August of 2017 when Acuff’s neighbor, who was the vice president of the PTA at Brookfield, needed a new program director for the BoxTop$ collecting program. Acuff had never done anything like it before but stepped up to the task. He collects not only BoxTop$, but Coca-Cola product caps, pull tabs from cans and all types of aluminum cans. His work collecting these items has earned him the nickname “The BoxTop$ King” from the community.

Acuff began collecting these items which could turn into money for the school by going out searching for them. “I started by drawing maps of the area,” he explained. “Going through trash, not garbage, and seeing who had enough stuff to make it worth my time. I engage anyone I see and tell them what I am about. It’s not illegal, and strangers are willing to help.” 

Acuff dedicates 25 to 30 hours per week volunteering and collecting items for the school. “A lot of time is spent in the community going out and picking up donations, but it is all worthwhile. It keeps me busy,” he said. Acuff’s wife is a retired FCPS elementary school principal, and they are raising a great-granddaughter that attends Brookfield.

Brookfield is a Title 1 school, meaning they are eligible for a federal entitlement program that gives funds to schools in need based on enrollment, the free-and-reduced lunch percentage for each school, and other data. 

“I had seen the school cancel five field trips one year because there were no funds, and that lit a fire in me,” said Acuff. “No more field trips were going to get cancelled on my watch.” Over the past four years, he has raised almost $25,000 for the school. “Staff at each school have problems to solve every day, and funding should not be one of them. Even things like art supplies and copy paper can be hard to fund. So without our help, kids might never get to go on their field trips,” explained Acuff. The BoxTop$ King even gives each kindergartener at Brookfield their own collecting jar with instructions in two different languages so they can take it home to collect their own donations and bring them back to school.

Acuff’s work has grown from one man going through local trash to a whole community of people wanting to help the cause. He recommends any students looking for service hours reach out to him, as they can enter the codes from caps and cans for him online at home on their own and earn service hours. “I even had a Boy Scout troop help; it was their Eagle Scout Project. They helped collect and then enter the cap codes. They entered 10,000 caps in five hours. Kids and computers, the kids can blow through it, it takes me forever,” Acuff said laughing. He even has help from a woman in Ohio who also has a relative of her own at Brookfield. “Corinne Price does about 80 percent of my cap collection code entry, she’s great. She used to be a data analyst and now helps me out.”

The BoxTop$ King has even had local businesses get involved, including picking up code panels from King Pollo, Buon Appetito, and the Country Club of Fairfax. Local Dunkin’ Donuts and the Panera of South Riding also donate and sponsor Acuff’s work.

Acuff does not stop at collecting donations when it comes to helping the school. He even volunteers for substitute lunch duty when he is needed. The kids love to see him around, as he is known for his hat, which is a crown with BoxTop$ hanging from it, representing his infamous nickname. “I have always believed in what I’m doing. I am all in,” he said. How can you not want to help kids?” 

So if you have a few BoxTop$, pull-tabs, aluminum cans, or Coke products lying around, contact Acuff to donate them, anything helps his cause. “Anyone can help. When I talk to folks that are giving me their collection, I hear this phrase quite often: ‘It’s not much,’ but I collect ‘not much’ hundreds of times a month. It all adds up,” Acuff said.

Lucian “The BoxTop$ King” Acuff’s Contact Email: lacuff5k@aol.com

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