Baby Kellan didn’t wait for Christmas for a present, he just dipped a hand into one of the many London Drug gift bags sitting on a table in Coquitlam’s Alternate Basic Education school (CABE) and pulled out a toy.
His mom, 18-year-old Raven Conlinn – a single parent coping with raising an eight-month-old while attending school – looked at the array of toys, toiletries, hygiene products and other gifts flowing from the bags with some relief.
There would be toys for the baby here and some help for herself on Christmas Day.
“I live at home. I don’t have a job or an income, so this is a big help and, of course, this is his first Christmas,” she said holding the child on her hip.
The toy Kellan grabbed was among hundreds of toys, toiletries, hygiene products and other gifts donated by London Drugs to ease the stress of Christmas for some of the neediest students in Metro Vancouver.
The items went to Surrey’s Wrap Around Team, which cares for the most vulnerable students in the city, to CABE and to the Tupper Young Parents program in Vancouver – the latter two providing young mothers with daycare while they continue their education.
Dave Woogman, manager of the London Drugs store at Broadway and Cambie, said the company was glad to continue supporting The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School program.
“Giving back to the community is a core value of the company. It’s something we are committed to,” he said.
London Drugs has supported Adopt-A-School since the first campaign in 2011. This year’s deliveries were made just before school ended.
Sarah McKay of the Wrap Around Team was delighted to receive dozens of bags of gifts, which were stored inside the team’s headquarters – a portable at Princess Margaret Secondary.
In a previous interview, McKay had said how worrying it was that high-risk students would be without the support of the school system for two weeks over Christmas because the schools provide them with food and other resources.
So the team has asked Adopt-A-School for $10,000 to buy emergency food, clothing and other necessities to get them through the winter and spring.
(Princess Margaret is also seeking a $1,600 emergency fund from Adopt-A-School.)
“It’s awesome,” said McKay as the bags piled up. “We can certainly use all this.”
In Vancouver, Cheryl Ann Jacobsen, who runs the young parents program from a portable at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary, said the delivery would provide personal-care items and presents that teen parents were unable to afford.
“But what’s just as important is these young parents know that there are people concerned about them and are supporting them,” she said. “These are brave young women and men (there is one father in the program) who are really just kids raising babies. And they have so many challenges in their lives.”
At CABE, youth worker Jill Allen said enough gifts were delivered that the school could share them with a nearby women’s transition house.
“It’s a shelter for women fleeing abuse and our students also recognize that we, too, have to give,” said Allen.
CABE is also asking Adopt-A-School for $27,000 to help mothers like Conlinn buy diapers, baby food, clothing, bus tickets and other necessities. A number of CABE mothers are forced to rely on the food bank each week.
Meanwhile, Conlinn was still buzzing from being told earlier that she would receive a Wesbild scholarship to go to Douglas College in September. She wants to become an education assistant working with autistic children.
The CABE scholarship program was introduced by Nezhat Khosrowshahi, a major supporter of Adopt-A-School whose family controls Wesbild and are known for their philanthropy.
Khosrowshahi has said she did it to encourage CABE students to pursue post-secondary education – often an impossible task for single, teenage mothers living on social assistance.
“I just couldn’t go to college without their help,” said Conlinn.
All in all, she said, it had been a wonderful day.
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)