“When you mention children in need to seniors, the desire to help is instant,” says Stacey Senger, marketing and communications manager with Harbours of Newport Retirement Residence.
That statement captures in a nutshell the driving force behind a partnership between Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids and the residents at Harbours of Newport, a Chartwell retirement residence.
Twice a week, a team of six residents whose ages range from 80 to 96 gathers together to make lunches for about 100 hungry kids in the city’s northeast. For many of the retirees, the concept of sending a child to school without lunch was a shocker.
“At first they couldn’t imagine how kids could go to school hungry,” Senger says. “Many of them grew up on farms, and no matter what else they had to sacrifice, they were always given enough to eat.”
Senger found BB4CK in 2011 while searching the Internet for an organization to work with on a “Giving Back Day” event.
“I had no idea what they did or how they did it,” she says. But she saw enough to invite BB4CK Executive Director Tanya Koshowski to speak to the residents. “Her passion inspired us.”
For the residents, and for Senger herself, making lunches for kids has forged a strong bond with the community, its schools and its kids.
“Not only now do I have a direct connection with the schools, the residents do, too. The residents just love knowing that they’re helping someone. I had one lady say, ‘That’s why I get up in the morning.’ It’s a serious commitment.”
The crew at Harbours of Newport can make about 100 lunches in half an hour. Senger says this energy is an untapped resource that could be utilized to help feed hungry kids throughout the city.
“I think it’s something that every retirement residence should do. The sheer joy of watching them do this makes me so happy. It’s a purpose, it’s giving back. They really love this program — it’s almost as if they consider it a job now.”
The caring and commitment have extended to the point where residents have knitted mittens and toques for the kids who receive the lunches, making sure they stay warm as well as fed. And those who don’t work making lunches chip in with monetary donations, making the Harbours of Newport effort entirely self-sufficient.
“I can’t believe that in a city with so much, kids are going hungry. I just can’t believe it — and neither could our residents. Now it’s their passion, which drives me to make sure it continues.”
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