Jacqui Cohen’s voice faltered as she spoke of the need to help impoverished children and families in danger of going hungry now that the coronavirus has shut down schools.
“I think I am going to cry,” said Cohen. “When I think of what is happening to children. It’s just heartbreaking and it’s why we are supporting the effort to feed them.”
Cohen, one of the grandes dames of British Columbia philanthropy, has donated $12,000 from her Face The World Foundation to The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School COVID-19 campaign.
“We have no choice but to help and it’s an honour to be able to join with The Sun in getting food to these families,” said Cohen. “When you think of children going hungry it just stretches the heartstrings.”
Thousands of impoverished families across the province are facing the prospect of hunger now that schools are no longer able to feed their children.
This newspaper’s Adopt-A-School (AAS) campaign has been supporting impoverished families struggling on income assistance or minimum wage jobs since 2011 and this year sent $900,000 to schools to feed and clothe children. But with schools being shut this help is no longer available.
Worried teachers are mobilizing to get food vouchers or deliveries of food to families living in poverty and isolation. They are also reporting that many families which were managing are now in crisis and needing help because of lost jobs.
To assist them The Vancouver Children’s Fund, which administers AAS, is appealing to readers for donations. The fund liquidated $100,000 from its emergency reserve and has made it available to schools.
This week the first batch of cheques totalling $130,000 was sent out and more will follow as requests come in.
Harold Munro, editor in chief of The Vancouver Sun and The Province and chair of the children’s fund board, said he was humbled by the response of readers.
“We have no idea what the future holds for us and where this pandemic will take us but we have to take care of our most vulnerable children and families during this time,” said Munro.
“We expect many more applications will come in once the effects of this pandemic starts to bite. The money we are sending out now is just the beginning but will only last so long.
“So if you can help, please donate,” said Munro.
“But I would like to thank Jacqui Cohen and those readers who have already come forward. The Sedins and their family foundation were among the first to offer help and said they would match donations up to $35,000.
“Since then The Schmelke Family Charitable Foundation has generously matched the Sedin’s with a $35,000 donation,” said Munro.
John Schmelke said his family’s foundation was inspired to act by the Sedin’s “incredible generosity.”
“We are very fortunate to have them in our community. They are solid people and when they came to the forefront it inspired other people to help,” said Schmelke.
Ken Gracie, who administers the McGrane-Pearson Endowment Fund with Philip Waddell, said he is “very worried” for families likely to be trapped at home without food or money.
The foundation has donated $10,000 in matching funds — the same amount it donated to AAS in December.
“If children can’t be fed in school then a way must be found to feed them at home and we want to help,” said Gracie.
David McCann, who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to AAS in the last two years, put up another $10,000 for the AAS COVID-19 appeal.
Asked why, he said: “I’ve got a job. I’ve got food and when I go home after work I can watch Netflix. These kids have got nothing like that and I can’t sleep at night thinking they will go hungry.”
To apply to the AAS COVID-19 fund, click here.
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)