The 809 Newark Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron is calling out to Niagara-on-the-Lake residents to take part in a bottle drive on Jan. 12, 2019. The annual drive raises money to support cadet training and programming.
“It’s a big operation – we have over 30 to 40 volunteers that day, sorting bottles, packaging them, getting them all packed into the truck, and then driving them out to the depot,” said Gary Zalepa, chair of the squadron sponsoring committee, which is made up of volunteer parents.
“Over Christmas, over the holidays, hopefully people are partaking. If they could store their bottles, we’ll be coming by to pick them up Saturday, Jan. 12.”
Twice a year, in January and September, the cadets and parent volunteers meet at Van Noort’s Greenhouses on Hunter Road. Parents will chaperon the cadets door-to-door through Old Town collecting empty wine, beer and liquor bottles before sorting and redeeming them at the local beer store.
“They’re ringing doorbells and they’re saying, ‘Do you have empties that you’d like to donate to the air cadets?,’” said Christine Lett, treasurer of the sponsoring committee.
“We’ll be going door to door, so even if they just put them in box on their front porch, we’ll pick it up and take it.”
“It’s a great way to support the youth in our community,” added Sandra Gowans, board member of the sponsoring committee.
Last year, the squadron raised more than $11,000 to support this year’s programming and training, which helped train the air cadets in everything from outdoor survival skills training to compass training to glider training to aviation simulator training, along with the rental costs to support their weekly training at the Croatian National Centre on Line 3 Road in NOTL.
“A lot of the sponsoring funds go to the glider training,” said Gowans.
“Because they’re air cadets, we want to get them up in the air, and those are big expenses – with all the fundraising, we need to get those dollars to get them up in the air and run the other programming.”
“We also have a power flight. We take them up in a plane and a properly trained officer takes them through what they have to do for that – which is really cool,” added Zalepa.
In the past, some of the funding has gone to field trips overseas to Vimy Ridge in France, and towards international exchange scholarship trips to China and Australia.
Zalepa said as part of the cadets winter training, they will be preparing for applying to summer training programs with the Department of National Defence, boarding at bases such as CFB Trenton.
“The cadets go through a merit basis to apply for that, and then they go for interviews, so it’s really good training because it’s like a job interview, and if they get selected, they get to attend one of the summer camps, which many of the cadets have done,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity to spend a couple weeks at an Air Force Base.”
Along with some of basic funding going to training equipment and camping supplies, other expenditures will go to recreational activities over march break and planned weekend activities.
“Last year, the money raised from the bottle drive helped fund the cadets to go on a weekend trip kayaking and white-water rafting,” said Zalepa.
“In past years, we’ve done things like bowling, rock climbing, or curling, which went over really well last year. So those are other things that we fund for the kids,” added Lett.
This year’s September’s bottle drive brought in $4,000 and they’re hoping for greater donation support on Jan. 12, 2019.
The committee expressed that without the support of the community from bottle donations, it would make it “extremely hard for the staff to run the program.”
“So save your bottles, it’s a very easy to contribute to the squadron,” said Lett.
“We also have ongoing collections where locals can drop off their empties at any time,” added Neeti Mehrotra, secretary of the sponsoring committee.
Empty bottles can be dropped off to 901 East West Line in NOTL, located behind the McDonald’s. A trailer with signage that reads, “Air Cadets Bottle Drive Drop Off,” is available to the public for bottle donations.
The air cadets are always encouraging more youth to join the 809 Newark squadron.
“We welcome any youth from ages 12 to 18 to come out – girls and boys,” said Gowans.
“It’s a phenomenal program, they learn so much and get such great opportunities.”