Some members of the Ruth King elementary school community received a nice little surprise recently as their children prepared to head into the Christmas break.
The school was one of several in the Greater Victoria area targeted by the Vancouver Island Construction Association for its annual grocery gift card charity giveaway, which sees $1,750 in grocery gift cards handed over for distribution by the school to struggling families at this time of year and into the new year.
“This generous donation is being used to support families in need and ease the financial pressures that sometimes accompanies the Christmas season,” said Ruth King principal Mark Kaercher.
“Thanks to the support of the Vancouver Island Construction Association and some other community minded organizations, we are able to help support families this holiday season.”
Greg Baynton, the association’s CEO for the past 11 years, said children and families have been an important charitable focus for the group in recent years.
While the members formerly supported a stuff the backpack style project, as the schools and their student body became better known to the association, some different ideas came forward as a way to help.
“We noticed that some real fundamentals – like nutritious food – were missing, not just at Christmas, but afterward,” he said. “We decided that the gift cards were the better way to go. The idea of gift packs and pretty things just wasn’t hitting the mark.”
The gift card idea stemmed from a fundraiser done at the association’s Christmas party. Attendees were asked to empty their pockets of change, which led to batches of coins being brought in, and later Farmer Construction brought in paint cans for companies to fill up. A fun internal competition saw the coin cans weighed, and a 50/50 draw was also held to boost the proceeds, Baynton said.
He’d like to see the group aim for $10,000 in total next year, especially after seeing and hearing of the impact the funds make on local families.
“The touching part is when you talk to the teachers and the principals, (and hear of) the commitment of these people, and the challenges of kids coming to school hungry and that impacting their ability to learn,” he said.
“Some of the parents are holding down two or three jobs just to make ends meet.”
The association receives five or six letters a year from appreciative parents, he added. “It almost brings tears to your eyes, the gratitude people feel for the help they receive. We’re just so appreciative to be able to help in this way.”