Going back to school pricey proposition

Salvation Army helps out with the basics

For any kid, heading back to school can be stressful enough. New classes, old friends, and the juggling act of balancing social and extra circular activities. The last thing they need is the added anxiety of showing up on the first day empty handed.

Gone are the days when schools provided students with more than just the ideas. Today it takes everything from paper, pencils, binders, and calculators for students to keep up.

For the Salvation Army Ministries Caring Place, back to school time is when a number families in Maple Ridge need an added boost. With the help of Staples and The Wok Box, more than 100 students will receive a backpack loaded with all the school supplies needed to get the school year off to a proper start.

The public can stop by Staples, located at 20050 Lougheed Hwy., and make a donation to the Salvation Army Back To School Program. For every $5 donation, contributors receive a free kids lunch from the Wok Box, located  at 20395 Lougheed Hwy.

Connie McGonigal, family and community ministries advocate for Caring Place, understands the difficulty some families face when the new school year rolls around. As a mother of five children, McGonigal estimates she spent close to $1,000 on just the basics for kids as they prepare to head back to class.

“If you are a high school student heading back to class and you don’t even have the basics, what kind of motivation are you going to have to succeed?” said McGonical.

The program initially started last year, serving 50 students. However the realization that more kids were in need quickly doubled the number more just more than 100. McGonigal said she estimates those numbers will grow again this year.

“The demand grows. Every year we find we are helping more and more kids. As school starts, parents will be panicking  because a lot of them have just been putting it off because they simply can’t afford it,” she said.

The program is just another example of the unfortunate plight some students face. Caring Place, with the help of the Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Community Services and the Friends in Need Food Bank, provides about 100 bag lunches to students every day for kids from Kindergarten to Grade 12. That works out to roughly 19,000 per school year.

McGonigal said some families in the area are struggling to pay their bills. When the rent, hydro and phone bills are paid, there is nothing left the extras.

“When anything else comes along, there’s just nothing there. This program helps us give every kid the chance to start off on equal footing with everyone else.”

Phil Shearcroft, owner of The Wok Box, said he hopes the community will get behind the program. He said it’s a great way to see your donations work.

“A lot of the time you give to a charity and your never see where the funds go. With this, it’s right in your face. It could be a student in one of your kid’s classes. I was sold on the idea because it’s so community focused,” said Shearcroft.

While donations are accepted at Staples, McGonigal said the public can also contribute directly to the Caring Place  by calling 604-463-8296 or Community Services at: 604-467–6911.

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