By Grace Oborne
When one donates time and money to something they feel is important, every effort counts, big or small.
For Carolyn Dobson and her son, Cole Dobson, raising funds for the Haliburton 4Cs Food Bank through a bottle drive was the ultimate way to spend their last weeks of summer at the cottage.
Cole participates in a program called the ABLE network in their hometown of Stouffvile. The ABLE network stands for Access to Better Living Employment. Their mission is to “create a network of committed community partners providing inclusive work and recreation options for adults with intellectual disabilities (ID). To ensure that all options are relevant and are provided in natural job and community settings in a supportive environment,” as the website reads.
The program runs daily from Monday to Friday, so during COVID-19, Cole engaged in the program through zoom. Work, recreation/healthy lifestyle, literacy, transit training, volunteering, and social networking are the ABLE network’s six core programs that participants learn and follow day-to-day.
Therefore, the idea to create a bottle drive came to Carolyn one day when she realized that she wanted Cole to do something else in between and after his Zoom sessions.
“One of the jobs the ABLE network put on was the Bottle Shed, and that particular organization has put out close to $20,000 to local charities based on the bottles that are donated.”
“The summer came around and I thought why can’t we do this at the cottage. From doing this at the cottage, he would continue his volunteer work, maintain work skills and enhance his social skills by communicating with neighbors while collecting and doing returns at The Beer Store,” she added.
Carolyn Dobson contacted the Road Association on their lake and together they decided they would set up bins at the end of five different cottage roads for locals to drop off bottles.
“The road association sent out notices to the cottagers on the roads to inform them that a bottle collection is going to be picked up once a week and proceeds all go to Haliburton Food Bank. Then it began, and we would pick up bottles about twice a week. They were just overflowing,” said Dobson.
“We started on the July long weekend and we ended on the Labor Day weekend. For those weeks, we would go out at the end of the weekend to empty and sort the bottles then take them into town. By Thursday night, we would have to empty them again, then on Friday, it was amazing,” she added.
Cole and Carolyn collected over 10,250 cans and over 3,500 bottles and donated $1,650 to the 4Cs Food Bank. Donating to the Foodbank was something that the Dobson family felt was important for the Haliburton community.
“We were in the middle of COVID, and I know that people had lost jobs. You drive down Main Street, Haliburton and some stores were closed through COVID. Everything was closed.
We just felt like it would be a good place to give back. This project was COVID driven,” she said.
Food bank manager, Judy MacDuff, was beyond thrilled and appreciative of Carolyn and Coles efforts.
“Carolyn had come to the Lilly Ann one day and was telling me about what they were planning on doing and said that they’re doing a bottle drive and they would like to donate the proceeds to the 4C’s Food Bank. I told them what a great idea. We appreciate it very much. And thank them very much for all that hard work.”
MacDuff says the money that was donated will provide the Food bank more than a month’s worth of fruit and vegetable food boxes for clients.
Carolyn and her family have been cottaging on Koshlong Lake for six years, and always hope that Haliburton will be their future retirement community. Carolyn hopes that Cole will find a sense of community in Haliburton as well and feels that their project helped him step into the community a bit.
“I think it’s important, not only for Cole, but for other people to see the importance that Cole can bring. A lot of people think individuals with intellectual disabilities are unemployable. It’s quite opposite. They’re reliable, hard workers, and they’ll work till they get the job done,” said Caroyln.
“It’s crucial for Cole to also see the importance of having a job and contributing to society, and that not everything is given to you. Also, just because he doesn’t have a full education doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s not capable of doing something that’s important.”
Carolyn engages in a lot of community work and supports many local charities but is not sure if she and Cole will do this again next summer but see a future of volunteering in Haliburton.
“Finding Cole a job in the community, or volunteering at the food bank, could be in our future. I also hope that Haliburton is my full time community one day, and I hope to maybe volunteer with Judy at the food bank, or wherever I’m needed.”
Carolyn was thrilled by the response from the food bank and MacDuff.
“They all were appreciative, thankful, and happy that they did that. It was mentioned that not only were they appreciative of the donation, but also that the bottles were staying out of landfills, which was something I really didn’t even think about. It was a very positive experience,” said Carolyn.