Bottle and Can Return Center in Niagara Falls Empowers Employees

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- Marshaun Walton and Santino Bax have been friends for years. They went to high school together, play on the same basketball team, and now they're co-workers. Five days a week, they come to Empties for Empower on Military Road in Niagara Falls. 

"This is a bottle and can redemption center where anyone can drop off cans and bottles," said Jeff Paterson, chief operating officer.

Inside, employees sort, count and bag the empty bottles and cans.

"This gives them the opportunity to get paid to do some work acquire new skills," said Paterson. 

"You can't lose track, you have to count them 20 or 10, 4 times and together and then we do more counting, and we get more bottles," said Walton. 

The goal for employees here at Empties for Empower is to learn the skills necessary to land a job out in the community.

"Customer service and getting a chance to talk to people and greet them and you know, have conversations with them, there's really a push on at the state level to fully integrate people with disabilities into the community and get them out of isolated settings," said Paterson. 

It's like any other redemption center. You get your full deposit if you want, or you can donate the money to Empower. 

"The state is really not fully funding our programs anymore, really; the level of reimbursement they give us does not always cover the full expense of what we do," said Paterson. 

Paterson added that revenue is a bonus to the life skills they're able to provide their employees. 

"Your empty bottles and cans, can fill the lives of people with disabilities," said Paterson.  

Empties for Empower opened a few weeks ago, but will have an official ribbon cutting April 11. 

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