The Starfish Pack Program of the Archway Food Bank in Abbotsford has received its largest ever donation: $500,000.
The money was donated by the Peardonville Community Association Society from the sale of its hall on Huntingdon Road.
The Starfish Pack Program provides food-filled backpacks that go home with students every weekend during the school year. Currently, 378 students receive a pack each week, and 150 access the summer Starfish packs.
Throughout the school year, 12 volunteer groups with more than 75 members pack bags with two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and snacks, which they then deliver straight to the schools to go home with students.
It costs approximately $600 for each student who receives a pack throughout the school year.
June Ross, a member of the Peardonville committee, said they chose the program because it most closely fits the original objectives of the Peardonville Society.
“The main fundraisers and programs were for children. Stemming from the Second World War, the neighbourhood women became part of the Women’s Institute, whose motto was ‘no child should ever go hungry,’ and the Starfish program fits that motto perfectly,” Ross said.
Rod Santiago, executive director of Archway Community Services, said “This will do so much to enhance the food the children receive each week, the number of children we can help and live on as ongoing endowment,” he said.
Half of the donation will be invested into an endowment fund called the Mollie Peardon Kissock Starfish Foundation through the Abbotsford Community Foundation.
Each year, the interest will be given to the program, ensuring that the legacy of the Peardonville Community Association Society lives on.
Other funds are earmarked for covering increasing food costs, the rising number of students accessing the service and speciality items. Backpacks prepared for school holidays will now include extra snacks and treats.
The Peardonville Hall has been in use since 1887 and in 1922 a formal society was incorporated to manage it.
Gordon Peardon served as the president from 1922 to 1947 and directed most of the operations. His daughter, Mollie Peardon Kissock, then continued volunteering with the then main body of operations, Peardonville Women’s Institute (WI).
Over the years, the hall was mostly run by by the WI, and some of the activities include Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, overflow from the Peardonville Elementary School, 4H, Sunday school classes, showers, community dances, weddings, community meetings and family gatherings.
In the later years, despite the waning community numbers, Mollie kept it going through hall rentals. Mollie, along with her sister Jean Peardon, personally paid for many repairs and utility bills to allow the hall to remain in use.
When Mollie became unable to oversee the hall anymore, the society members decided to sell the property as the neighbourhood had no one to volunteer to take on the caretaking tasks.
Unbeknownst to them, the society had been dissolved in 1947 after failing to file the required annual society reports for two executive years during the Second World War.
Since the society was no longer active, there was no legal owner of the hall.
Five former and current members of the community, including descendants of the Peardon family, petitioned the Supreme Court of B.C. to allow a sale. A ruling allowed the society to be reinstated for two years with instructions to sell the property and donate the proceeds to a charitable organization that shares a similar purpose.