When Buchanan School principal Bob Cocking took the initiative to bring community volunteers together with Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids to feed hungry students, he couldn’t have foreseen all the benefits that would result.
At the time Cocking arrived at the historic elementary school in the north-central community of Highland Park, close to two dozen of its 145 students were receiving lunch from the BB4CK downtown kitchen. Weather and traffic issues between the kitchen and the school sometimes saw the lunch deliveries delayed, and Cocking felt there might be a better way to feed his hungry students.
Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids agreed, suggesting lunches could be made in the community closer to the school.
“Brown Bagging approached me about two years ago, saying it would be great if your community could support you,” Cocking says. “We’ve got four churches nearby, and two (Northminster United Church and Centre Street Church) immediately stepped up.” So did nearby James Fowler High School, where two clubs began making lunches.
“What’s really neat is that Brown Bagging is doing less and less. That’s how much community involvement there is.” In fact, in many months the BB4CK kitchen now doesn’t need to send a single lunch to Buchanan — community groups and families are getting involved to the point where all the need is being met, and then some.
“Willam Aberhart High School wanted to help too, but we haven’t been able to fit them in yet. It’s a neat thing that there’s hardly any room for more volunteers,” Cocking says.
BB4CK executive connector Melissa Cooney-Burk gives Cocking credit for forging a strong bond with the community around his school.
“Bob is always looking for new ways to connect his school with the community, and he takes this upon himself,” she says. “His passion for his school and all the kids who attend it is unmatched.”
The amount of time and energy Cocking puts into his work reflects that passion.
“Some days I feel like 25 per cent of my time is spent co-ordinating partnerships,” he says. “It’s really neat to see. But there are children in other cities, and worldwide, who are hungry — it’s not restricted to this city. Helping out is a no-brainer when you see the difference you can make.”
Cooney-Burk says Cocking’s caring nature makes him a great asset for the young students at Buchanan. “Bob always advocates for his kids and families. We’re willing to help him wherever we can.”
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