Community comes to rescue of hungry families in Surrey

Community comes to rescue of hungry families in Surrey

Such is the state of poverty in some North Surrey homes that a family recently had only a single onion to eat between them all weekend.

“That’s all they had,” said Liane Ricou, an official with the Surrey School Board.

“We know of families that don’t even have that. They’ll go all weekend without eating anything,” she said.

Earlier this month, Ricou launched a pilot program to try and feed 25 poverty-stricken families — many of them refugees — whose children attend Old Yale Road and Lena Shaw elementary schools in the Whalley area.

“We want to get them through the weekend,” she said.

There are at least 10 schools in Surrey that urgently need a program similar to one in Vancouver, where children are sent home with a backpack of food on Fridays.

The only money for the program was $100 a week being donated by parishioners of the Relate Church at 6788 152nd St. and the Guru Nanak free kitchen.

“We’ve been trying to do something for a year because we’ve been hearing all these stories. But it’s hard to feed 25 families over a weekend with just $100,” she said.

“We just haven’t been able to buy what they need. We want to give them bread, pasta, pasta sauce, tuna for protein, fruit and vegetables, a box of cereal, milk, but it’s not possible.”

Three weeks in, Ricou asked if the Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-a-School program could help.

And so Vancouver businessman David Sidoo — a longtime supporter of the Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-a-School campaign — is donating $10,000 to provide emergency weekend food deliveries to those 25 families. It’s part of his family’s $30,000 pledge to this year’s campaign.

“We can’t leave families hungry like this,” said Sidoo, whose foundation has given more than $122,000 to schools since 2008.

(Since Sidoo came forward, the Relate Church and the Guru Nanak free kitchen have both pledged $750 a month until the end of June for the program.)

Sidoo also committed $20,000 this week to help feed hungry children at two Vancouver elementary schools.

Meanwhile, The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Board, which supervises Adopt-a-School, announced that this year’s campaign resulted in 70 schools receiving more than $600,000 in grants to combat the effects of poverty among schoolchildren.

Most of it goes toward providing emergency school meals and setting up kitchens in schools that need to feed hungry children. It pays for clothing and footwear, and items such as lice kits, transit tickets, baby supplies for student mothers, field trips, and computer systems for special needs children. It provides bursaries to encourage at risk students to attend after-school tutoring and emergency funds for families — such as those in Surrey — without food.

“We would like to sincerely thank our readers for supporting Adopt-a-School and making this year’s campaign such a success,” said Vancouver Sun editor and chair of the children’s fund board Harold Munro.

This year, the Adopt-a-School campaign received two major donations from foundations — $100,000 from the Lohn Foundation and $126,384 from West Vancouver residents Jack and Leone Carlile.

The Lohn Foundation’s donation was made by Vancouver lawyer and Holocaust survivor Jack Kowarsky, who administers the fund.

The foundation has donated more than $30 million in the 25 years since the death of Earl Lohn, a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman who had amassed a real estate fortune worth $137 million at the time of his death.

The Lohn Foundation’s donation has been designated by Kowarsky to feed 800 impoverished children in 22 Surrey schools.

The Jack and Leone Carlile donation was left to the discretion of the children’s fund board for distribution.

The couple also donated $2 million recently to the Lions Gate Hospital to build a 10-bed unit for teenagers with mental health and addiction problems.

“We made the donation to Adopt-a-School because we just want to help children,” said Leone Carlile.

“We feel that is important.”

By Gerry Bellett (gbellett@gmail.com)

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