Empties piling up? Then the ‘Drive By Bottle Drive’ is looking for you

Bottle drive organizer Melanie Rogers, outside The Inn of the Good Shepherd. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

The Sarnia woman who spearheaded a successful food drive to feed the hungry at the start of the pandemic is now organizing a bottle drive.

Like the food drive, bottles donated by the community will support the food bank, soup kitchen and homeless shelter operated by the Inn of the Good Shepherd, Melanie Rogers said.

“This started out as a small bottle drive. But it keeps getting bigger every day.”

From May 14 to 16, Rogers and about 50 volunteers will pull on plastic gloves and head out to pick up empty wine, liquor, beer bottles and cans. Physical distancing will be maintained at all times.

Since learning of the event (see DriveByBottleDrive on Facebook), several donors have offered as many as 30 cases of empties.

Sarnia-Lambton’s enthusiasm and willingness to give prompted Rogers to find volunteers with vehicles able to transport large volumes of empties to storage. Storage is needed because The Beer Store on Confederation Street is currently the only outlet in Sarnia accepting empties.

“They’ve said they don’t want more than a trunkful at a time,” said Rogers. “So I’ve got volunteers who will do that every day until they are all gone.”

The idea struck her after noticing many residents during the COVID-19 outbreak aren’t returning empty wine, liquor and beer bottles for deposit.

“I know they’re piling up everywhere and the deposits could really help out the Inn,” said Rogers, who works at The Lodge, the homeless shelter affiliated with The Inn.

“We need so much help because of the pandemic,” she said. “We need cash and we need food. If people want to put bags of food out with their empties, we’ll gladly take that too.”

Following the lockdown, the Inn cancelled several large food drives, including Cyclone Aid, and future fundraisers could be in jeopardy.

The “Drive By Food Drive” generated 16,000 pounds of food for the Inn’s food bank and soup kitchen.

Rogers isn’t sure how much the new drive will raise. The Beer Store pays 10 cents or 20 cents per bottle or can, depending on size.

Currently, no more volunteers are needed.

Anyone with a large donation of empties is asked to email Rogers at drivebyfood@gmail.com for a specified pick-up time.

Empties can also be dropped off Friday, May 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the parking lot at The Inn of the Good Shepherd, corner of Divine and John streets.

COMMUNITY-WIDE BOTTLE DRIVE

WHAT: House-to-house pickup of empties to raise cash for The Inn of the Good Shepherd.

WHEN: Thursday, May 14 to Saturday, May 16

WHERE: Thursday – Sarnia north of Highway 402 and Point Edward; Friday – Sarnia south of the highway; and Saturday -Bright’s Grove, Errol Village, Camlachie, Wyoming, Petrolia, Corunna and Aamjiwnaang.

HOW:  Place your bottles in a bag at the front of your house by 9 a.m. with a label saying “The Inn.” Be sure to turn on a front porch light to alert volunteers.