Lori Macala is looking to fill 25 backpacks just like this one with food every weekend of the school year for students at Marie Sharpe, Cataline and Nesika and is calling upon the community to help her do it. (Patrick Davies photo)

Starfish Pack program looking to fill backpacks for needy children in Williams Lake

Williams Lake Daybreak Rotary Club’s Lori Macala is heading up the program

As the school year begins in earnest so to do student support programs like Williams Lake’s Starfish Pack.

The 2019-2020 scholastic year marks the fourth year since Williams Lake has implemented this program at several local elementary schools. In essence, the Starfish Pack program aims to help students who are unable to access enough food at home over the weekend. At the end of each school week, these anonymous students are given a backpack of food designed to last them the entire weekend, therefore improving their quality of life.

This year the program is being run and managed by Lori Macala, a retiree who volunteers through the Williams Lake Daybreak Rotary Club.

Macala said the inception of the program in Williams Lake came from a PAC member of Marie Sharpe Elementary who witnessed it operating in the Lower Mainland. After reaching out to contact them for more details, Daybreak Rotary was all over this opportunity to provide meaningful help in local children’s lives.

READ MORE: Starfish Pack launches in Williams Lake

This desire was born out the knowledge, Macala said, that there were some students within elementary schools who would eat breakfast and lunch at school but over the weekend would receive little. The organizers quickly found out that $575 was all that was required to fill a backpack with food for a child once a week for an entire school year and ever since have worked to raise more funds to be able to feed more children every year.

“Kids learn better, they’re better behaved and they’re just better people when they’re fed. I mean, I’m the same way, you don’t feed me lunch, I need lunch,” Macala joked.

Each week they rotate between six different menus for the children including cereal, tuna, noodles, rice, soup, stew and other categories. It boils down to enough food for two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and two snacks, Macala said along with a banana, orange and apple.

Macala said they have committed to feeding 25 students this year to start with, though currently they only have enough money to feed 17 of them for the entire year. If they don’t receive further funds Macala said they’ll run out of money by around February, though she doesn’t foresee this as being a likely outcome.

This year the students come from Marie Sharpe, Cataline and Nesika and are selected for the program by their teachers and principals. The personal information about each student is unknown to Macala and her fellow volunteers and that’s how they prefer it.

Currently, Macala said she is in the process of raising awareness about the need for additional donations within the community by sending out letters, taking out ads and anything else she can think of to get the word out.

This is especially important as they are now able to issue tax receipts to donors who open their wallets or cheque books. They’re able to do so thanks to a new partnership with the Cariboo Friendship Society, who will be handling donations on behalf of the Starfish Pack program.

The total sum required to help pay for the 25 students for the rest of the school year is around $5,620 Macala said, though more is always better.

Macala encourages anyone with further questions or a desire to donate to call her at 250-305-8559.

“Please help us fill these empty backpacks.”


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