After a summer of almost unbroken sunshine, the rain and bad weather is causing problems for families who do not have the means to buy proper clothes for the winter.
NANAIMO — The food bins sent out to every classroom at Brechin Elementary each morning always come back empty on Mondays. A clear indication that many of the students, ages five to 10, endure hungry weekends.
Those Rubbermaid storage bins contain packages of boiled eggs, cheese sticks, pepperoni, crackers and carrots. Notably, on Mondays everything in the bins gets eaten.
About 60 of 180 children attending the school need to be fed each morning and given a sandwich at lunch because they arrive hungry and without food.
Brechin school secretary Tara Hill is asking for $10,000 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign so staff can care for these children who are relying on the school to feed and, often, clothe them.
She estimates the number of families living below the poverty line and whose children attend the school on Millstone Avenue to be 30 per cent.
There is no sit-down breakfast program at the school, but in addition to the food bins there is milk, cereal and yogurt available in the classroom.
Lunch is usually a meat-and-cheese sandwich one day and peanut butter and jam the next.
“With the cost of food and rent these days, we need this (Adopt-A-School) funding to feed our students and help those families,” she said.
A portion of the $10,000 will be used to support families who on occasion have run out of money and food.
“We need to be able to give them gift cards for food — clothes sometimes,” she said.
On one recent morning she had received a receipt from a teacher who had spent $100 buying boots and rain pants for children in her kindergarten class who were walking to school in the rain with holes in their shoes.
After a summer of almost unbroken sunshine, the rain and bad weather was causing problems for families who do not have the means to buy proper clothes for the winter, Hill explained.
“It’s a big problem for them now because for six months they didn’t have to think about having proper clothes for the weather. But now the bad weather has hit.”
So, coats, boots, and pants are needed to get them through the winter.
“Parents will come and ask for help, but some won’t, so myself and the youth care worker have asked staff to keep an eye out for anyone coming in who needs food or clothes.
“The sad thing is, it’s often those who need help most who won’t ask. Those are the ones that really worry us.
“And there are other things that break your heart. Families who don’t have enough money to wash their children’s clothes, who can’t afford the quarters for a washing machine.”
Eventually this becomes noticeable, she said.
“I’ll just say (to a mother), ‘Hey, when you are dropping off your kids bring me a load of clothes and let me wash them for you.’
“I know it’s hard these days for families. My kids are grown up and trying to figure out life and living payday to payday, but they’ve got a supportive family.
”But what about people who have no support and the school is their only support? That’s why we do what we can to help as many as possible.
“It’s really sad, but these kids didn’t ask for what they are being dealt.”
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)