By Darren Lum
Thank you, community.
That’s the message from the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association (HHOA) after what is being characterized as a successful bottle drive fundraiser.
During the pandemic, which is nearing 15 months, the volunteer run organization that helps with educating the public, raising fish and stocking lakes in Haliburton County was left with few options to raise money to cover expenses with COVID-19 protocols impacting many of their money-making operations.
With thousands of empty bottles and cans in front of him on the last official day for collection, HHOA member Tim LaRiviere, who was the contact for this drive was amazed by the outpouring of support for this effort during May.
“It’s way beyond our expectations that we were going to get, so we’ll probably end up collecting … at least $2,500 in beer returns, if not, $3,000,” he said. “Between the beer cans and the other stuff, I would guesstimate at least 10,000 [bottles].”
LaRiviere said this will help to cover operational activities, which would have typically been covered by fundraising events such as the Wild Game Dinner in years without the pandemic.
“We’re kind of struggling to keep our heads afloat on an operational basis. For what we need for pumps, fishing [equipment], or whatever we need around the hatchery itself. That’s what it’s going for,” he said.
The HHOA operates the fish hatchery, located on Gelert Road, and since 1998 has raised and stocked more than 700,000 fish in more than 100 lakes throughout Haliburton County and surrounding areas.
LaRiviere said a bottle drive was held last year during hunting season to see how it would go, and it raised close to $1,200 after expenses.
“So we decided to try it again in the spring to see how it would go and we got an overwhelming response … as you can see,” he said, pointing to the collection.
This effort was possible because of the dozen or so volunteers who regularly helped twice a week with sorting and transporting the empty beer and alcohol containers to the Beer Store in Haliburton. This grew to a few more days in the last week because of the generosity of the community.
The Beer Store staff, he said, were very accommodating and are part of the fundraiser’s success.
“We always called them before hand, whether they could handle this or not because they have other customers to deal with. But they have been really, really tremendous in helping us and we just tried to coordinate back and forth,” he said.
Although the bottle drive has ended, the HHOA is leaving the space for another bottle drive fundraiser to benefit the Snowflake Meadows Rescue, founded by Haliburton’s Kristyn Begbie. This one will accept drop-offs for the month of June.
LaRiviere said there is hope to hold the annual Wild Game Dinner event later in the year than September, but it’s not clear if that will be able to happen due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Basically this is our only fundraising event because we can’t do anything else because of COVID-19,” he said.