Tight-knit village takes care of its own, but needs a bit of help

Tight-knit village takes care of its own, but needs a bit of help

Similar to many other rural B.C. communities, families are migrating here in the hopes of finding some relief from the high cost of living — particularly the price of rent.

“We do have some new families coming into the area because they believe it is cheaper here,” said Misty Terpstra, principal of Salmo Elementary, which has 140 students.

“We are a rural village, and we have lots of needs. Food security is an issue (for some students) as well as access to such necessities as coats and winter boots and lice kits,” she said.

As many as four in 10 of her students could be considered vulnerable and many of them come to school hungry.

They come from “proud and hardworking families who are experiencing low-income challenges, disabilities, (high) cost of gas and single parents doing the best they can.”

“This community has a big heart and looks out for one another,” said Tempstra, the school’s new principal, who worked here as a teacher for several years before leaving and then moving back.

To manage the cost of living a number of families will share a dwelling, she said.

“They’ll co-habitat to support one another with housing and food security. One partner could be away up north working because (finding) employment here is hard. So the families help and support one another,” Terpstra explained.

Salmo, population 1,500, is just north of the Canada-U.S. border and 40 kilometres south of Nelson on Highway 6. It has no local bus service and bus service to Nelson is available just a couple of days a week, which limits people finding jobs outside of the area, said Terpstra.

“It can be quite insular but it’s a village where people know what one another’s needs are, and they will reach out.”

Each day up to 50 children need breakfast — which is a large number considering the size of the school, she said.

The school’s parents advisory council sends in volunteers to prepare and serve food.

Right now, she is feeding them during the day using a $4,000 grant from the school district and $1,500 from the provincial feeding futures program. But that money will run out sometime in January.

Terpstra is asking for $7,000 from The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School campaign so she can continue feeding students and provide food for families at weekends and sometimes during the week when an emergency arises, and a family finds itself without food or money.

“We are regularly putting snacks and things in children’s backpacks if we know there are siblings at home.

“Our PAC on Tuesdays will make soup or pasta and things like that, and we will freeze it and then we’ll put a package of frozen soup in a child’s backpack to take home for the family at dinner time.”

The school is attempting to support 20 families with weekend food.

Included in the request is $1,500 that can be used to buy children winter coats, boots, hats, gloves and other necessities.

“There are a number of kids who don’t have boots or jackets. So far, we’ve been lucky with the weather being moderate but, as winter comes, there’s definitely going to be a need.

“There’s always been a lot of need in Salmo, but people now are more comfortable asking for help from the school than they have been in the past and that’s a real big success. This is always going to be a place that needs a little bit more support and love.”

By Gerry Bellett (gbellett@gmail.com)

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