This summer, BB4CK worked with Calgary Swims For Lunch (CSFL), a group based out of the Forest Lawn Outdoor Pool. CSFL hosts a volunteer-based program to spread water safety and provide lunch to those in need during the summer months. Led by Makena Hind and Olivia Graham, ideas for the program began to take shape over the years Hind has worked in the Forest Lawn community. In the winter of 2015 Hind volunteered in the BB4CK kitchen, “it was that experience that really furthered my inspiration and dedication to develop a program,” says Hind.
Hind gathered information about the community and the number of children that access programs during the school year and found that there was an opportunity for a summer lunch program paired with an educational component. Hind’s proposal to operate CSFL out of the Forest Lawn Outdoor Pool was approved by Benchmark Projects Ltd. and the Calgary Outdoor Pool Association. Hind and Graham set to work securing community connections and raising community awareness about the program for the July 4 start date, “the local schools and social workers assisted with reaching out to the kids who could benefit from our program,” says Hind. The support continued with the aquatic staff at the Forest Lawn Outdoor Pool. “The lifeguards and instructors volunteered their time whenever needed and many reached out to family and friends to ensure we had enough volunteers each day” shares Hind.
Soon, CSFL was receiving volunteers and food donations from across the city. Working hard to access diverse food sources, CSFL utilized the Calgary Food Bank’s Food Link program, and received funding from BB4CK for staple meal items. BB4CK was able to connect CSFL and Calgary Co-op, who donated loaves of bread for sandwiches, and Leftovers, which brought fresh produce and a variety of items to the program with weekly deliveries of donated food from Market 17. “Next summer we hope to have Community Fridays where different organizations or individuals have the opportunity to sponsor a lunch for all the kids in the CSFL program” says Hind. “We were fortunate enough to have two individual and corporate donations this year. Emerald Management, and Sharon from M&M Food Market donated hotdogs and hamburgers.” In mid-July, Hind invited the Forest Lawn Calgary Boys and Girls Club to join in the swimming and lunch program and the Club’s kids participated in the program on Fridays throughout the summer. “Our partnership with the Boys and Girls Club is one we hope to continue next year” says Hind.
The program was a great success with the children who participated this summer. “The response from the kids was outstanding!” Says Hind. “They really enjoyed the opportunity to learn and practice swimming, for many it was their first opportunity to swim. There were a number of touching personal stories from some of the kids, it certainly had an impact on myself and the volunteers, which further enforced our commitment to the program. The parents and grandparents that we had the chance to speak with were thankful for the program and really seemed to enjoy watching the kids learn how to swim, and learn basic ice safety, boat safety, and water safety skills” says Hind. “The kid’s favorite lunches included pizza bagels, BBQ grilled cheese, quesadillas, and of course hamburgers and hotdogs! Thanks to the deliveries from Leftovers the kids were also able to try new foods like microgreens, arugula, and grilled eggplant.”
“I think that Calgary has a lot of untapped resources to fuel programs like CSFL. Many communities in Calgary would benefit from summer drop-in programs that offer lunch and activities! Along the CSFL journey it has become apparent to continually ask questions and ask for help! You never know who can help you bring your vision to life unless you reach out for support! CSFL began with a motivated team wanting to address hunger and drowning prevention. We had to make minimal kitchen modifications to ensure that we could provide lunch; contacting Alberta Health Services and other grassroots programs or established organizations such as BB4CK is the best way for others to gain knowledge and insight if they are interested in developing a program in their own community” shares Hind, “collaboration is key, and really made a huge difference in collecting food and resources for our program! To anyone who is looking for support starting a nonprofit, it is out there, and finding it will make the greatest difference in your program.”
Looking toward summer 2017, Hind and her team have big plans. “We hope to create more partnerships with local grocery stores, restaurants, and non-profit organizations in 2017. Our plan for the future is to provide as many lessons and lunches as we can. Hopefully next summer, we can get a few more volunteers so we can accept more participants into the program. We hope to continue having older participants help us plan lessons and menu items. As we reach older kids in the community we hope to help them develop strong swimming and leadership skills, with opportunities to take a swim instructor and/or lifeguarding course.”