Principal Lisa Jamieson didn’t hide her delight when the London Drugs truck pulled up outside Old Yale Road Elementary delivering bags of toys and gifts.
“We are such a needy school,” said Jamieson, whose school on 132nd St. in Whalley is high on the list of Surrey’s inner city schools that needs all the help it can get.
It is one of the schools supported by The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign, which provide breakfast for children coming to school hungry as a result of poverty.
For Jamieson, the appearance of the truck was providential.
“We usually get help from another (more wealthy) school over Christmas, but they are not doing it this year. So having you bring all this is great for our families,” Jamieson told Britta Bisig and Jacky Kane, two representatives from London Drugs who organized this year’s toy drive, which the company does each year for Adopt-A-School.
“We just love doing this,” said Bisig.
The toys and gifts will be distributed to children and families in need over Christmas.
David Woogman, manager of the London Drugs store at Broadway and Cambie, said the toy drive was the company’s way to of giving back to the community and supporting Adopt-A-School.
“It’s wonderful to be able to help people who need it,” said Woogman. “All the gifts were handpicked by our staff.”
Gifts were also delivered to Surrey’s Safe Schools team, the Coquitlam Alternative Basic Education school (CABE), and three Vancouver schools — Lord Strathcona Elementary, Mount Pleasant Elementary and Sir Charles Tupper Secondary.
In CABE, the gifts, which included baby strollers, were chosen for the number of young mothers attending the school, which has a baby daycare centre.
Seventeen-year-old Tanis Hanson loves the school, she said, as four-month-old Zaylia was bounced on her knee.
“It makes learning easy,” said Hanson, who lives in Aunt Leah’s Place — a residence for young mothers where she can stay until she is 19. “It takes away a lot of stress.”
When she graduates, she is planning to become a pediatric nurse and is hoping to take advantage of a unique post-secondary scholarship program provided to the school by Wesbild Holdings.
The program was devised by Nezhat Khosrowshahi, whose family owns Wesbild and has supported Adopt-A-School since its inception in 2011 with significant donations for food and other assistance to schools in Coquitlam and Vancouver.
She offers scholarships that allow CABE mothers to attend university or other post-secondary institutions or trade schools once they graduate.
There is a row of photographs of successful post-graduate student mothers on the wall at the school.
One of the first students of the program has now completed a criminology degree at SFU and next year will be studying law at UBC.
“Who gets out with a degree, a baby and no student loan?” asked CABE youth worker Jill Allen, pointing to a photograph of her former student with no lack of pride.
“She’s blessed and so are we for having Naz’s support,” said Allen. “We’ve told Tanis it will be available for her, too.”
Meanwhile, The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund, which administers the Adopt-A-School program, has so far received requests from schools for almost $500,000 to help deal with hunger and poverty across the province.
Surrey, the largest school district in B.C. and with many refugees settling there, is asking for more than $240,000 in aid.
Harold Munro, editor of The Sun and Province newspapers and chair of the Children’s Fund board, said he was heartened by the response of readers to the campaign to date.
“We still have a long way to go and the need is great, but I’m optimistic,” said Munro. “Our readers have never let us down and they realize this is an important issue which needs all our support.”
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)