The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. has thrown its support behind the Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund campaign to feed impoverished children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know the Children’s Fund through its Adopt-A-School campaign has the ability to reach thousands of children who are hungry and in need, and we want to help, especially during this pandemic with many parents being out of work,” said association president John Rice.
The association has sent a $25,000 donation to The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School COVID-19 emergency fund.
“We did our research and we know The Vancouver Sun’s fund has a long history of supporting kids in B.C.,” he said. “When we learned of the COVID-19 emergency fund we wanted to offer our help. We see this as an opportunity for us to get involved in a very worthy cause where there is an urgent need to help these children and families,” said Rice, a personal injury litigator. “It’s a crisis and we realize many families and kids are struggling.”
Rice said the association acted after listening to a submission from Vancouver lawyer and association member Matthew Nathanson. “Matthew reached out and asked us to look at what Adopt-A-School was doing. Like everyone else, we wanted to help and I’m very glad to have the opportunity to do something,” said Rice.
Meanwhile, Vancouver Rotary Club has donated $20,000 to Adopt-A-School for two Vancouver schools, Norquay Elementary and Britannia Community Elementary. The funds will be used to provide food to families and assist those who don’t have computers or access to the internet so students can participate in online learning. Rotary is also giving $10,000 to The Door is Open, an organization that provides daily meals to people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Vancouver Rotary president Bill Davidson said the service club was continuing its mission of “providing direct and meaningful contributions to local charities. We are pleased that our contributions will assist children and families at these two schools,” said Davidson.
This year, the Adopt-A-School program distributed almost $900,000 to schools across the province so teachers could feed and clothe children coming to school hungry or without adequate clothing for the weather. But school meal programs financed by Adopt-A-School were curtailed when schools were closed in March, leaving thousands of children who relied on school meals for sustenance in jeopardy.
A month ago, The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund board, chaired by Sun/Province editor-in-chief Harold Munro, launched an emergency campaign to raise funds to support alternative ways to feed these children.
Many school districts, teachers and organizations have been feeding children and families through grab-and-go food sites opened on school grounds or by delivering food vouchers to homes.
To date, 35 Adopt-A-School COVID-19 applications totalling $520,000 have been received from all parts of the province, while approximately $480,000 has been distributed with the latest requests under review.
Among the disbursements was $100,000 sent to The KidSafe Project Society, which is providing sanctuary for vulnerable kindergarten and elementary-aged children in a number of Vancouver schools.
These are children who, for a variety of reasons, can’t be safely left at home during the day and whose welfare is a cause of great concern, said KidSafe executive director Quincey Kirscher.
Two weeks ago, KidSafe sheltered 40 children in Cunningham and Grandview elementary schools. This week, Thunderbird Elementary became the third, taking the total now being helped to 70.
She is negotiating with two school principals to gain access to their schools and was hoping to place another 40 children in safety during the day. KidSafe is also providing food to over 200 families and some necessities when she can get them.
“We had a donation of personal hygiene products, but they went very quickly and we could really do with more. This is a very uncertain time and it is very worrying for all of us,” said Kirscher. “But what really inspired us was realizing Adopt-A-School had our back. We took a leap of faith knowing our community would catch us. Now we can tell families, ‘Yes, we can look after you and your kids. We’ll be there for you.’”
The increasing demand for help is clear from comments found in many of the applications received by Adopt-A-School from schools, which often contain the same refrain: numerous families are suffering, more are arriving in desperation, and foreboding clearly fills the space between the lines.
Take the application from Vanguard Secondary Alternative school in Langley. “We have approximately 140 students who come to school without eating. Most have various circumstances — poverty, family mental health, domestic violence etc.,” said the application. “(Some of) these students have been identified with a range of mental health needs — eating disorders, anxiety disorders, depression — that adds complexity to them accessing regular support systems.
“Vanguard Secondary had been providing lunch access everyday but (since school has closed) have been unable to keep pace with the needs and variety of foods being required to support our students and their families.”
The school needs $10,000 to buy and deliver food to keep these families going until the end of June.
Munro said he was overwhelmed by the response to the appeal.
“We can only do this with our readers’ support. We don’t know how long this emergency will last, but we will do all we can to help schools trying to feed and nurture children through this,” said Munro.
“It is wonderful to see that everyday ordinary people come out and clap and cheer for our front-line emergency workers and they deserve every bit of it.
“But I would like to add all the teachers, principals and school employees who are struggling to feed and care for helpless families during this time to those we should applaud. Their job description doesn’t involve their being social workers, fundraisers, community activists. But here they are — the last line of defence for thousands of families. How blessed we are to have them.”
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)