A school breakfast program that serves up to 51 students a day needs a volunteer boost after having to reduce the number of days it’s offered each week.
The Bagel Café at Springwood Elementary School is under the stewardship of Lois Smith, who began volunteering 12 years ago when the program operated at the former Parksville Elementary.
That’s long enough that Smith has seen some of the kids she’s served breakfast to over the years grow up and go to university, she said. “It’s quite beautiful,” she said of the opportunity to support them and see them grow.
The program began offering breakfasts two days a week, and that grew to five days a week, said Smith.
Kids can have a bagel with cream cheese or butter, along with milk (sometimes juice), fruit, veggies and cheese.
Served from 8:10 a.m. until 8:45 a.m., the breakfast is not just for students from families who can’t afford food, said Smith.
Some students have parents who have to leave too early in the morning, and some parents or grandparents attend the school breakfast as well. Those who can pay for it do so, to help support the program and those students who can’t.
Over the years the program has received support from various businesses, organizations and the school board, and in many cases continues to get that support, said Smith.
On Thursday, Nov. 2, Knox United Church donated more than $1,200 to the program from its Thanksgiving offering.
But the program is also in need of a different kind of support.
Since early last November, the Bagel Café has had to cut back to three days per week from five days, due to a lack of volunteers.
Smith is hoping to find more willing volunteers to help with setting up the cafe, serving and taking it down again each morning.
Volunteers would have to be fit, able to move quickly and stay on their feet for an extended period of time, be OK with noise and like kids.
They would have to be available from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
She’s also hoping to find someone who could do more administrative work, such as scheduling.
All volunteers would have to pass a criminal records check.
Smith said she hopes to find repeat volunteers to provide some continuity for the students. “We’re the first people that meet up with these kids (every morning),” she said.
Sometimes the volunteers hear about problems the students are having even before teachers do. Smith has even managed to do some teaching of her own with the program, helping kids to realize vegetables are a viable morning food, and white cheese is just as good as, and sometimes better than, orange cheese.
“We are quite blessed to have the volunteers that we do, and we hope to continue (the program) and expand it if we have more volunteers,” said Springwood’s principal, Tony Saremba.
Those interested in volunteering can contact Springwood Elementary at 250-248-2038.