Friday, August 24, 2007

Local groups help parents with their back to school requirements

With many people in Prince Rupert still suffering from the tough times of our recent economic malaise, a couple of local groups have shown some leadership by helping Parents in need to stock up on some of the school supplies their children will need this school year.

It’s year three for the backpack program in Prince Rupert, a project that first got underway through the Kaien Anti Poverty society in 2004, which then put together 50 backpacks of school supplies for those in the most need. Last year the Salvation Army joined in with the Hecate Rotary club to lend a hand and 300 backpacks were assembled for back to school.

This year the same group of helpers is back, enlisting the aid of Prince Rupert’s Bargain Store to help try and give returning students to Prince Rupert’s public schools a bit of a head start on their back to school needs. The distribution of the packs will take place this Saturday from 11 am until 4 pm at the Salvation Army Hall on Grenville Court near the campus of Northwest Community College.

While the numbers of backpacks that are required seems daunting, the fact that so many are willing to step up to help out says a lot about the community spirit in the town. With the economy still not back to its previous days of robust growth, the need will still be there for a few years yet as struggling parents try their best to send their kids off to school with as much as they can provide with their limited resources. Having a dedicated group like those that have helped out again this year must be a bit of a comfort for them in trying times.

The Daily News featured the details of the backpack program in its Thursday edition.

Students will get chance to pick up much-needed free school supplies
By Christian Webber
The Daily News
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Pages one and three

The Hecate Strait Rotary and the Salvation Army are working together in a partnership to bring 300 much-needed backpacks of school supplies to children in and around Prince Rupert.

The bags and the supplies were designed for public school kids, there are smaller backpacks for Grades 1 -3 and larger ones for kids in Grades 4-7.

“The bags are filled with some school supplies, not everything they need but a decent start, said Gary Shiels, with the Salvation Army along with the Hecate Strait Rotary and Kaien Anti-Poverty Society filled around 300 bags.

A few backpacks were left over from last year, but this year the bulk of the supplies came from the Bargain Store.

“They are absolutely remarkable, they made sure that we got everything we needed,” said Shiels, about the Bargain Store.

He said there are about 35 of the smaller backpacks left over this year. What they will do is, those who come in late during the distribution will get a bag without any supplies.

“Three hundred seemed to fit the need last year, I don’t know how I came up with the number last year,” said Shiels.

He said they have restrictions as well with the amount of money the Salvation Army can spend, they have to be careful because they also have feeding programs such as the soup kitchen and the food bank.

Kaien Anti-Poverty Society started the project two years ago. They did about 50 backpacks that year. The next year, Shiels and the Salvation Army asked KAPS if they could partner with them, knowing the need was great.

The backpacks will be distributed this Saturday from 11 a. m. until 4 p. m. at the hall at the Salvation Army. The entire process will be done on a first come, first serve basis.

Shiels said that there is no qualifying, all people need to do is pick up as many backpacks as they need.

“The town has gone through a pretty rough time in the last five years, there are lots of good things on the horizon, but they are still on the horizon, so the need is still there.”

Shiels hopes the numbers of people needing backpacks will diminish in the years ahead. While there will likely always be a certain amount needed, he hopes it will go down to a more manageable level.

The soup kitchen and the food bank have both been busy this year as well he added.

“At Christmas time, we do 700 gift bags, which is a phenomenal figure,” said Shiels.

Shiels said that in Prince Rupert, 32 per cent of families are single parent. The city is also in the top two per cent of communities with people on social assistance in British Columbia.

He said the Salvation Army is eager to help, and happy to help, but could not do it without the Hecate Strait Rotary Club or the Bargain Store.

The Hecate Strait Rotary Club is a service club. Their mandate is the service they do should be geared to youth. So this project is a perfect fit for them.

“Most of the services Hecate Straight does in town is geared towards youth,” said Shiels.

There were about eight people packing bags at the hall, and Shiels said there would be around three bags packed per minute, equaling around an hour and a half of volunteer work.

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