Rethinking Christmas with Gabriola Elementary students


Rethinking Christmas with Gabriola Elementary students

Four years ago, GIRO Restore 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 at the elementary school.

To explore other ways that GIRO and PHC could collaborate, I met with PHC Coordinator Kenda Chang-Swanson and Brenda Fowler. As part of the environmental stewardship program at the school I wanted to engage grade seven students with local issues. We discussed the demographic of people on Gabriola that are considered “vulnerable” from limited access to affordable housing or challenges faced by living on a minimum wage and struggling to pay for daily necessities. They identified that there are approximately 80 single people and 30 families that fall into this category and approximately 15 of those people are living without proper shelter, heat or running water. We prioritized items of necessity like warm jackets, sweaters and socks as well as toiletries, which GIRO staff and volunteers spent the next two weeks putting aside. These items were donated to PHC to give community members agency to select what might be of use to them.

Grade seven teacher Luke Laurie, chef Will Willgress and I spent a day with the students at the Commons Kitchen baking 700 cookies which were boxed up in cookie tins and donated with GIRO Gift Certificates to be added to the Christmas hampers that are 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 $1000.00 to support students having a regular cooking and baking lesson at the Commons Kitchen. GIRO donated $2,800.00 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.

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