Raymond Louie may have risen from the mailroom to the boardroom in the last 30 years — dumping his overalls for a suit and tie — but he has kept his same social conscience.
In his early working life, Louie was bundling newspapers in the noisy, viewless basement of the old Pacific Press building on Granville and West Sixth.
Now as chief operating officer of Coromandel Properties, he can admire Coal Harbour and the North Shore mountains from the luxury of the 18th floor of 1188 West Georgia.
“I was a union rep, too, back then,” said Louie, invoking his leftish credentials that led him to take a detour into municipal politics, first with COPE and then with Vision Vancouver, serving 16 years on Vancouver city council.
Louie joined Coromandel a year ago and is responsible for the real estate company’s development, construction and acquisition departments.
But his concern also stretches to what he sees and hears about how the poor are faring in the city, especially children suffering from poverty.
“After all those years on council, I know there is a dire need for people to be helped. It’s a persistent challenge and it requires a persistent effort,” said Louie.
“That’s why we want to help through Adopt-A-School.”
The Coromandel Foundation has committed $90,000 to Adopt-A-School over four years.
The $22,500-a-year donation will be used to help children attending Strathcona Elementary, Britannia Elementary, Xpey’ Elementary, Vancouver Technical Secondary School, and the KidSafe Project Society.
“Because it’s a persistent problem, we want to commit to those programs for four years, to support kids and their families,” said Louie.
This year, the Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund, which runs Adopt-A-School, is being asked for approximately $1 million from schools across the province that need to feed and clothe children arriving each morning in various stages of distress.
The five projects Coromandel is supporting are seeking a total of $135,000 this year from Adopt-A-School. The schools need money for food, clothes or to help families in case of financial emergencies.
Strathcona Elementary (in conjunction with the adjacent community centre) needs almost $60,000 from Adopt-A-School to feed children and for emergency funds to help impoverished families when there is no other place for them to turn.
The community centre also needs kitchen equipment to store food distributed on weekends to families who would otherwise go hungry.
This year, $38,488 is needed from Adopt-A-School to pay the cost of feeding 205 children each afternoon in Strathcona’s after-school child care program.
The community centre feeds 150 impoverished children and adults breakfast each day. It also distributes food in backpacks to get 175 families through the weekend. There are more than 400 children being fed this way.
The community centre is also requesting $4,780 to upgrade its food storage capacity and replace old and broken kitchen equipment.
The money would be used to expand food shelves, buy a double-door cooler and a new high-volume toaster necessary for the breakfast program.
Margaret Jorgensen was once principal of Strathcona Elementary and knows how necessary it is for families there to be fed.
“Food security is available to all families all of the time,” said Jorgensen, a board member of the Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund. “These food programs support those living in poverty.”
By providing food in school, “families can stretch their food budgets so that children and parents all get more,” she said.
“Strathcona school and community centre ensure that all children have access to breakfast, lunch and after-school food as well as weekend food in a non-stigmatizing way.”
And who, she asks, would argue against children having a “food secure life”?
Certainly not Louie — now a civilian after quitting politics — who visited Strathcona Community Centre to meet with staff.
“It’s important for us to help where we can,” he said.
“Our commitment as a company is to family, community and the environment. These are our core beliefs and when we see these social problems we feel we must respond.”
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)