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Unitex donates to Starfish program

Abbotsford company announces contribution of 220 backpacks
Bob Johnson of Unitex Sales Ltd. displays one of the backpacks that his company has donated to the Starfish Pack Program.

A local company has announced a major donation to the Abbotsford Food Bank and Abbotsford Rotary Club in support of the Starfish Pack Program (formerly known as Blessings in a Backpack).

Unitex Sales Ltd., a provider of corporate marketing materials and uniforms, announced on Oct. 14 that it will donate 221 new backpacks to the program – a donation worth more than $5,500.

Unitex Sales has been the sole supplier of the backpacks used by the program to provide elementary students in need with food packages containing two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and snacks every weekend.

The program provides meals to children who depend on school breakfast and lunch programs during the week.

Unitex Sales has been providing the backpacks to the program at cost, as it has risen to 195 children receiving backpacks in 13 local elementary schools.

Unitex president Bob Johnson said the company is pleased by the efforts of the local Rotary Club to take on a leadership role to make the program happen.

“I grew up dirt poor. I know first-hand what a big difference just a little bit of help can make for a family struggling to get by,” he said.

Abbotsford Rotary Club president Hugh Ellis said the donation will ensure that all cash donations for the program go toward the purchase of food.

Groceries for the program cost $525 for each child during the school year.

Local stores such as Cooper’s Foods and Save-On-Foods on Whatcom Road are providing the groceries at cost, and community donations have allowed the program to dramatically expand over the last year.

Local churches, including Hill City, Northview, Ross Road and Gateway, have donated money to the program, as well as provided volunteers who shop, pack and deliver backpacks every week.

A local construction company, First Choice Transformations, donated all of the funds needed to cover one local school and also provided weekly volunteers from among family and friends to do the shopping and packing.

There are currently more than 100 volunteers involved in the Starfish Pack Program.

Dave Murray, manager of the Abbotsford Food Bank, said community support for this program is unprecedented in the community.

“Thirty-six local businesses plus many, many individuals raised over $100,000 for the program last year. Kids going hungry for days at a time touched people in Abbotsford in a very real way,” he said.

Estimates put the number of children in need of the program at 400.

Johnson is challenging other business owners to make similar contributions to the program.

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