Williams Lake has become one of a handful of communities around the province to launch a program that feeds hungry children on weekends.
Called Starfish Pack, the charity, founded by the Rotary Club of Abbotsford and the Abbotsford Food Bank, focuses on providing food for children in need on the weekends at a time when they are not able to access school breakfast and lunch programs.
The program was made possible in Williams Lake thanks to a partnership between Williams Lake Daybreak Rotary Club and local businesses who can sponsor a child for a year at a cost of $525 each.
“Starfish Packs is one of the easiest things we’ve ever done as Rotarians,” said Daybreak Rotary Club of Williams Lake president Ron Malmas. “We can see our money going directly to filling the packs every weekend.”
The way the program works is that teachers select students in need of support, then those children are provided with a backpack stocked with two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and snacks.
Malmas said the program is 100 per cent community funded, relying entirely on local community support for both funding and volunteers.
“We don’t add a single new student to the program until we have 100 per cent of the funding for the entire school year in our hands and a team of volunteers committed to support them,” Malmas said.
Besides being a Rotarian, Malmas is also a business sponsor of Starfish Pack as manager of Compassionate Care Funerals.
“There are so many kids that are hungry in our community. Helping with Starfish Packs is a way we can feed these kids so they can learn with full bellies,” Malmas said.
The Child Development Centre is one of almost a dozen local community support and volunteer groups that will provide financial support and volunteers to do the weekly shopping, packing and delivery of the backpacks.
“We are excited to launch this program to support the families of our communities,” said CDC executive director, Nancy Gale.
Starfish Packs will be delivered this school year in Abbotsford, Surrey, Chilliwack, Delta, Aldergrove, Langley, Mission, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Vernon and, for the first time, Williams Lake. All local donations remain in the communities where they are made.
In a letter regarding the Starfish Program, Harj Manhas, assistant superintendent of schools for School District 27, thanked Williams Lake Daybreak Rotary Club for their work.
“This food will assist our vulnerable families. It is organizations such as yours that make it a pleasure to live in this community,” stated Manhas. “You step in when there is a void in a family’s life.”
At a cost of $525 per child for the school year, the program only spends $12-$15 per week to provide six meals in each weekly backpack. Currently there are enough business sponsors to feed 12 children in Williams Lake for one year.
To find out more, go to www.starfishpack.com or to become a business or personal partner call Ron Malmas at 250-267-9497 or to make a donation to the Williams Lake program visit the Child Development Centre, 690 Second Ave. N., Williams Lake.