GIRO raises $1,133.70 in book donations to support Hot Lunch Program

Michelle MacEwen

General Manager, Gabriola Island Recycling Organization (GIRO)

Wednesday, January 15 2020

Four years ago, GIRO Re-Store Manager Janice Ursaliak spearheaded an initiative to donate the money collected from book sale donations at GIRO for the month of December to PHC to support the hot lunch program. December 2019 was a record month for donations ($1,133.70), with customers giving generously to support the program. A hot lunch is prepared by staff and volunteers at PHC every Wednesday to feed students affordable “pay what you can” nutritious meals at the elementary school.

To explore other ways that GIRO and PHC could collaborate, I met with PHC Food Programs coordinator Kenda Chang-Swanson and Brenda Fowler, Executive Director. As part of the environmental stewardship program at the school, I wanted to engage Grade 7 students with local issues. We discussed the demographic of people on Gabriola that are considered “vulnerable,” and the way that vulnerability can be experienced by community members in a variety of ways. Sometimes vulnerability can occur for a short amount of time, and for others it can occur chronically. For instance, some community members experience limited access to secure housing on fixed or low-incomes. With a 40 per cent child poverty rate, we know that many families with children can use support. They identified that during this holiday season: 85 individuals and 30 families with a combined 59 children, received Holiday Hampers to support them during this time of year. As well, PHC works with community members that are insecurely housed, some which lack proper shelter or utilities. We prioritized items of necessity like warm jackets, sweaters and socks as well as toiletries, which GIRO staff and volunteers spent two weeks putting aside. These items were donated to PHC to offer to community members, in a way for people to select what might be of use to them. 

Grade 7 teacher Luke Laurie, and Chef Will Willgress and I spent a day with the students at the Commons Kitchen baking 700 cookies. These were boxed up in cookie tins and donated with GIRO gift certificates and added to the Holiday Hampers that were distributed to vulnerable community members the week before Christmas. This project was part of a gratitude lesson plan with a focus on rethinking Christmas. The ingredients for this project were donated by Nesters who have very kindly donated $1,000 to support students having a regular cooking and baking lesson at the Commons Kitchen. 

GIRO donated $2,800 in gift certificates to this initiative. 

Our goal is to continue collaborating with PHC, identifying and addressing ongoing needs throughout the year. Many thanks to everyone who supported this initiative.