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The Backpack Campaign

    An Initiative of the Social Issues Networking Group (S.I.N.G.)

 

            Sponsored by Outreach St. George’s Kingston, P.O. Box 475, Kingston K7L 4W5

 

          It is still around the beginning of summer, and it seems like an odd time to be talking about Back To School in September, but the Backpack Campaign takes a lot of planning ahead, and we are hoping for some help from you.

 

          For the last seventeen years, the Social Issues Networking Group has been providing backpacks and school supplies for students in the greater Kingston area whose families cannot afford to purchase them. Research indicates that parents this year were paying an average of at least $400 per child on back to school shopping, an increase of 4.5% from the previous year, and we can expect this to go up again in September, 2018. This is out of reach for parents working at low wage jobs or struggling on social assistance when costs of basic necessities such as food, energy and housing continue to climb. The stress of trying to do right by their children and measure up to other families simply compounds the anxiety some parents already experience by living in poverty.

 

          We rely completely on donations to support our programme. We receive some financial support from the United Way, and we have two terrific partners in our suppliers; the Staples downtown store provides all of our school supplies at a significant discount, and the Canadian Tire Cataraqui Store provides a large number of our very sturdy backpacks at a significantly reduced cost. This year the grand opening sale at the new CAA Building had some leftover backpacks which we were able to purchase at a substantial discount.

 

          We have no paid staff; we are all volunteers. We distribute supplies out of Crossroads United Church, right next to the Kingston Centre, in mid-August, so that people without their own transportation can come on the bus. Our distribution day, August 15, 2018,  runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. to accommodate the maximum numbers of folks who may work at hourly paid jobs. We have a list of school supplies appropriate for each grade level, and we set the area up just like a store, so that the children can come along with a volunteer to assist them, choose their own backpack from the various colours and designs available, and pick up their own pencils, erasers, markers etc., for the little ones, and binders, paper, math sets and calculators for the older students. We do not record the names of the children who access our service. We ask for proof of identification, such as a health card, the grade level and the school the student attends for our own data gathering.

 

          Last year we provided back to school materials to over 1,000 students in the area, from Junior Kindergarten to post-secondary.

 

          We feel it is so important that all children are able to arrive in the school yard on the first day of school with a nice new backpack which they have selected, and appropriate school supplies, which they can use at school and at home. If you or your group could consider making a donation to the Backpack Campaign, the cheque should be made out to Outreach St. George’s Kingston, and sent to the address above. Please feel free to contact me for further information. Many thanks.

 

Tanis Fairley, Retired Elementary Principal, L.D.S.B., (613-544-2865, tfairley@cogeco.ca)                                    Member, Social Issues Networking Group, (S.I.N.G.) and Board Member, Outreach St. George’s Kingston (O.S.G.K.)

 

NOTE: The Social Issues Networking Group (S.I,N.G.) are all volunteers and we are working together with Outreach St. George’s Kingston, O.S.G.K.) who will issue receipts for income tax purposes for any donation over $20. The Kawartha Credit Union is also a partner in our fundraising campaign, along with the Sisters of Providence.

 

Thank You

to all who contributed so generously in 2017: food, clothing, personal items and, of course, cash. Donations continued right up to midnight on December 31st (Vancouver time!) through Canada Helps, and we and especially all of our clients are so thankful for your generosity. It means we will be able to continue helping those most in need. We continue too serve those most vulnerable in our society, and to hear of their concerns. We serve all who come, with no questions asked.

2016 Report

In 2015 we served 11666 meals and 10191 soups. (Our figures for the previous years were 10982 and 8471 in 2014 and 11448 and 9701 in 2015.) We still serve about 300 different individuals each year, but their faces are changing. Those who circumstances have changed, or have moved or died, are replaced by new, younger, faces. And we are serving more females.

 

Our Vegetable Garden project continues to go far beyond what we had expected. We have always tried to provide fresh vegetables at each meal, but cost and sometimes supply was a problem. Under the very capable hands of John Poland and friends, we have fresh vegetables all through the summer, and freeze what we cannot use then for use through the winter. We work in cooperation with Loving Spoonful in this project. 

     The food is prepared by Coordinator Jenny Hurd (who has worked in the program since 1990) and her group of thirty volunteers. Three or four people cook and clear up each day, and they come from all over Kingston.  The volunteers feel a calling to work with and for the disadvantaged, the alienated, the marginalized, and those who are just hungry.

Thanks to all who made the Christmas Dinner so Successful. Over 130 clients were present, and all received a Christmas turkey dinner with all the trimmings and dessert. They each also received a door prize.  We want to thank Windmills Restaurant for their help in cooking and preparing the turkeys, the Cataraqui-Kingston Rotary Club for setting up the tables so beautifully, and for being the servers along with Kingston Firefighters. Thanks to all who donated cash for the dinner or items for the many door prizes. And our regular volunteers performed stellar service in preparing the food and filling the plates. Later, 70 of our regular clients received a gift bag and a Christmas stocking of personal items.

We continued to receive grants from institutions, donations from many individuals, and gifts in kind from various sources, for all of which we are most grateful. About $15,000 of food was donated in 2016 to supplement our $65,000 budget. Because of the generosity of individuals, businesses and institutions over the years we are now in a reasonably healthy financial situation.

 

Discussion on Homelessness and Poverty

The video of the discussion is now at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv1rn1viB_Q

About 160 people crowded into St. George's Hall  to listen to Hugh Segal and Michael Oulton give their ideas on how to eliminate poverty and homelessness. The discussion was moderated by Eric Friesen. Their message was clear: Poverty can be eliminated, and the result will be better for individuals and for society as a whole. Thanks are due to them for the time they offered out of their busy lives, to the community groups who displayed their work, to all who listened so attentively to the discussion, and to all who donated, both food and $671.