Community
21 MAY 2021

Lava lamps and a karaoke machine: disability clients fundraise for their centre with Return and Earn

Late last year clients of Tweed Heads’ Empower Disability Outreach program suggested that as a centre they start collecting bottles and cans for the Return and Earn container deposit scheme.

Community Support Manager Vanessa Riggs says she thinks it was Lindsey Scaysbrook, one of the regular day clients, who first suggested it. Although Lindsay’s sister Kerry Scaysbrook, also a client, says the idea came from the whole group.

After the suggestion was made, staff and clients visited the local Return and Earn Reverse Vending Machine to check out how the scheme operated. Vanessa says that as they watched people deposit containers, staff and clients talked about how they could make it work for their centre.

It wasn’t long before container returns became a popular activity at Empower Disability Outreach, and Vanessa says they all “love it”.

“Clients and staff bring containers from home,” says Vanessa. “The staff at the Allied Health centre next door have started bringing them in. We’ve all just jumped on it.”

In barely a couple of months they had returned 3,000 containers – and raised $300.

Containers are stored in bags at the centre until they are returned – Lindsey and Kerry usually go with staff to deposit containers. “When it’s full , we take them down, we scan the containers, and put them in the chute. Then we come back and do it all over again,” says Kerry.

The refunds go towards purchases for the centre, but it’s the clients who decide exactly what is needed. “They chose things they’ll get joy from. It’s always about what our guys want,” says Vanessa.

So far the centre has purchased a karaoke machine, lava lamps, gardening supplies and more.

Vanessa says an advantage of using Return and Earn for the centre is that it naturally ties into life skills programs like budgeting, and even growing food and cooking.

“We have a gardening program, so we’ve spoken to clients about how recycling helps the environment,” says Vanessa. “Container refunds have paid for the garden beds and some seedlings.”

Lindsey says they grow “little red tomatoes” and other vegetables and herbs that are used in the cooking sessions the centre runs.