November 30, 2011

Problem solved: Thunderbird Elementary principal overwhelmed by response

Mary-Ann and Alex Currie have responded to the Adopt-a-School initiative with a $1,500 donation to Thunderbird elementary. Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, PNG

Thunderbird elementary school principal Henry Peters was overwhelmed by the response to an appeal Monday for help for his inner-city school where many children come to class hungry.

“The response has been fantastic,” said Peters, who Tuesday was trying to return phone calls and reply to emails offering assistance.

Thunderbird, in East Vancouver, was featured as part of The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Adopt-a-School appeal on Monday.

In that story, Peters and kindergarten teacher Janey Lee related how staff at the school – on Cassiar Street in one of Vancouver’s poorer neighbourhoods – struggle to cope with such problems as children not getting enough to eat, or coming to school with dirty clothes because their families don’t have access to washing machines or dryers.

Peters said he needed about $25,000 to operate a breakfast program and distribute afterschool food staples to those families struggling with poverty – now he’s close.

He also said he could use a washer and dryer in the school so families without access to them could go there to wash their clothes.

His emergency supply of gift food certificates that he dispenses in cases of desperation was also low.

But by the end of the school day Monday he had offers of six washer-and-dryer sets from Vancouver Sun readers and a promise of a $10,000 donation from Vancouver resident Margaret Barbeau for the food programs.

Peters had also received more than $200 in food gift certificates from readers, and the operations manager of the Vancouver Farmers Markets had pledged her organization would step forward to help with donations of fresh produce.

“I read the article and we just want to help,” Roberta LaQuaglia said. “We want to be involved and do whatever we can to funnel some healthy food into the school.”

Alex Currie and his wife Mary-Ann contacted The Sun with an offer to buy and install a washer and dryer only to find that the need had been met.

“Well, then we’d like to donate $1,500 to the breakfast program,” said Currie, a retired businessman.

“The appeal for help was very clear and compelling. We know there’s no quick fix for these problems and there’s no point in trying to point the finger of blame. All you can do is try to help out.”

Currie said people should look at their spending to see if they could also make a contribution.

“People spend an awful lot of money on such things as tickets to the Grey Cup and hockey games and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. But when there is a need for food vouchers to help hungry kids, it should put some of that spending into focus,” he said.

Both Barbeau and Currie were delighted to hear their contributions, if made through The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund, would be matched by The Sun, bringing the total to $23,000.

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