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A Sunshine Coast man is making a big difference in the lives of others one car at a time in an initiative that has grown from simply collecting cans.

Through his Cans for Cars movement, Sam Tucker restores vehicles that need “a little bit of TLC” and then donates them to people in need.

“It’s very rewarding seeing the joy in their faces and knowing that I’m making a difference,” he said.

This week, Mr Tucker was the recipient of a Local Heroes award recognising his contribution to his community in the Mooloolah Valley.

Since 2018, he has given away eight cars, including one to single mother Kat George who lost everything in the Lismore floods earlier this year.

“Kat has been able to find herself some secure location,” he said.

“Her children have been able to be dropped off at school and now she’s been able to turn her life around just from a small gesture of a $2,000 car.”

The latest recipients were Sunshine Coast’s Katrina and Tim Steinhardt.

Last year, they were involved in a car crash that left Ms Steinhardt needing to use a wheelchair and the couple without a vehicle to attend medical appointments.

“We were both security guards and now we can’t work,” Ms Steinhardt said.

“Sam has given back our freedom by giving us a little car.

“He’s just brought back so much hope now because we thought it was the end.”

Project driven by desire to help
Mr Tucker said he experienced his own fair share of personal struggles, but was driven to prove to himself and his family that his good deeds could improve the lives of others.

The Sunshine Coast father lives with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.

He said he came up with the Cans for Cars idea while working as a driving instructor and teaching kids to drive in “paddock bashers” donated by his local community.

Mr Tucker had seen firsthand the impact losing a vehicle could have on families.

“It’s detrimental to everyone’s mental health and also just the whole running of the house,” he said.

“I’ve been on the lower income and struggling with mental health and depression myself, so I know how they feel.

“I knew how hard it is to be able to save or to get a vehicle, let alone registration.”

Lifeline for families in need
Jason Carroll from the Mooloolah Valley Community Centre said the project made a huge difference in the lives of recipients.

“Mooloolah doesn’t have the best of transport links,” he said.

Mr Carroll said to access shops or to take children to school a vehicle was essential.

“Without Sam, this community would be a lot poorer,” he said.

“He’s just got so much warmth and love and care for people that have been, for whatever reason, down on their luck.”

The community centre helped connect Mr Tucker with people in need and was well-known among locals.

“I’ve never met a person like Sam, you just wish him all the success,” Mr Carroll said.

“The kids love him … he’s like the pied piper. Wherever Sam is you’ll find kids.”

Funding a charitable project
Mr Tucker started his car restoration project by collecting cans to slowly raise the needed funds.

“At three o’clock in the morning I would go down to Caloundra and I’d go through all the bins, maybe only make $6, and then I’d go to work,” he said.

“For the first three cars, I used all the money that I received from cans.”

But collecting cans soon wasn’t enough to accrue the money his project needed.

“It was very hard to actually make money from just collecting cans,” Mr Tucker said.

He said as more people in the community heard about Cans for Cars, he received cash donations and assistance from local businesses.

Mr Tucker is now working on bigger plans to create a multi-purpose facility for “children and young adults to be educated about how to get through life with ADHD”.

“I have lived experience and it’s been quite a hard disability to live with,” he said.

The facility will also encourage young people to be active and enjoy positive experiences, Mr Tucker says.

“[We’ll have] action sports, mountain biking, BMX — all these fun activities that the next generation need,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to creating more happy moments.”