By Aleksandra Bliszczyk
A charity started by a man living with autism, bipolar disorder and chronic, life-threatening epilepsy is thriving and about to expand its capabilities across the City of Whittlesea.
Jake Castledine, of Greensborough, spends his days collecting old towels from Doreen, Mernda and South Morang households.
During the past three years, the 29-year-old has collected kilograms of unwanted linen and donates it to animal shelters.
The charity started with a desire to help animals, when shelters were calling out for blankets amid bushfires in 2018 and 2019.
It has now become a closed-loop business – JDC Support – and not only supplies animal shelters, but homeless support organisations and vulnerable families across the City of Whittlesea.
Jake’s mother Janice Castledine said his not-for-profit ‘microbusiness’ had grown dramatically in the past 12 months.
The charity is unique in that it benefits Mr Castledine too, who doesn’t have the ability to work due to his medical conditions.
Ms Castledine said funding from the Department of Social Services allowed a home day program to be set up for him.
Mr Castledine suffered a stroke in his early 20s, leaving him with a limp and a shake in his hand.
He now requires constant care, but his activity within the community has ramped up.
Mr Castledine and his support workers spend every morning from Monday to Thursday driving around the City of Whittlesea. They collect a range of items including pet supplies, children’s toys, toiletries, as well as new and old towels and blankets.
On Fridays and weekends, they sort, package and deliver. Everything in good condition is donated to animal shelters; Epping charity From Us 2 You, which delivers meals and supplies to homeless people in Melbourne’s northern fringe; and to Big Group Hug, a community support group for families and vulnerable children.
With the help of his support workers, Mr Castledine then trims the older linens and towels into rags for tradies, which he delivers to work sites weekly for $5 a bag. The money raised is put towards petrol, and coffees for his staff.
JDC Support is funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme, NDIS, providing more than $22 billion in funding a year to an estimated 500,000 Australians who have permanent and significant disability.
For many, the funding goes towards helping people connect with their communities and the added costs associated.
Ms Castledine said his situation was an example of the NDIS working, with the funding helping him achieve his goals.
“The way they fund you is based on their life goals, so for Jake his number one goal was to live independently away from mum and dad,” she said.
“His second big goal is to be in the community, with his staff, being seen to be a good citizen and building on relationships in the community.
“This is just an interest to keep Jake on the road, to keep Jake in the community and being seen.”
Ms Casteldine said keeping busy and active had given Mr Castledine a new sense of purpose, and many new friends.
“Jake is happy, that’s all I care about,” she said,
“He loves it if you’ve got a dog, a cat or a horse he can say hello to.”
Next month JDC Support will move out of Mr Castledine’s unit and into its own warehouse in South Morang, increasing collection capacity.
“We created a website … but we’ve just started a Facebook page called Team Jake,” Ms Castledine said.
“For us it’s just about trying to keep that momentum so people don’t forget about us.”