Rotary donates over $33,000 to the Starfish packs

The Starfish Backpack program was designed to bridge existing in-school breakfast and lunch programs

Leslie McConnell- Abbotsford Rotary President

The Rotary Club of Abbotsford recently presented the Abbotsford Food Bank a cheque for $33,268, in support of the Starfish Backpack Program.

The Rotary Club of Abbotsford has been working with the Abbotsford Food Bank to help feed hungry children and families since the spring of 2013. The Starfish Backpack program was designed to bridge existing in-school breakfast and lunch programs with the absence of any food for the students over weekends.

Bill Robson, district governor for Rotary 5050, which consists of nearly 60 Rotary Clubs in both B.C. and Washington, also participated in presentation, said, “The Abbotsford Starfish Backpack program is an amazing program which helps so many young people in this area.”

As a result of Abbotsford Rotary’s leadership and innovation, Robson announced that many other B.C. communities have implemented the Starfish Backpack program. National media attention on the Starfish program has resulted in inquiries from outside B.C. as other communities search for ways to address local child hunger.

Leslie McConnell, president of the Abbotsford Rotary Club, expressed her pride in the club’s leadership role in expanding the program.

“The fact that 250-plus Abbotsford children are now being fed each weekend as a result of our combined efforts is such an accomplishment.”

This program has inspired the Abbotsford community to get involved and has over 50 local businesses, service clubs and faith groups involved. A full list of community partners can be found at www.starfishpack.com/abbotsford-partners

McConnell also introduced Jaslyne Sunday, a local third-year Pacific Summit College student who is being funded by the Abbotsford Rotary Club as the first “Starfish Intern.”  The pilot project created in partnership with the Abbotsford Food Bank, will see the Rotary Club provide funds for three years to local post-secondary students studying in the areas of social service and non-profit management and opportunity to assist and learn from the Starfish Pack program while earning academic credits.

Dave Murray, Manager of the Abbotsford Food Bank, received the latest financial contribution from the club. “Child hunger in Abbotsford is not a new problem or a simple one to solve, but Starfish Packs is bringing both community awareness and resources to support local kids regularly going hungry in a way we’ve never seen before.

Abbotsford Community Service, of which the food bank is part, recently acknowledged the leadership of the Abbotsford Rotary Club in promoting Starfish Packs in Abbotsford by making the club the very first group recipient of its annual Community Builder Award.

While the program has expanded rapidly since the first school of six students in 2013 to current levels, estimates from Abbotsford School District 34 indicate over 400 local students who come to school on a daily basis without having breakfast or lunch. Donors and volunteers are still required to meet the need locally. To donate, get involved or support the Starfish Pack Program, please visit www.starfishpack.com.

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