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Aldergrove Rotary’s Starfish backpack program ready for start of school

Fundraisers are back on, helping as the need rises
Members of the Aldergrove Secondary hairdressing program volunteer to help fill the Starfish backpacks. (Starfish backpack program/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

With school heading back in just a few weeks, a program that helps feed kids and families in need in Aldergrove is also getting ready to resume its fall operations.

The Starfish Program’s volunteers provide backpacks full of nutritious food to get families through the weekends, benefiting kids at three Aldergrove Elementary schools and, as of September, Betty Gilbert Middle, said Charlie Fox, the program’s coordinator.

“We’ve given out over 14,000 backpacks in the last six and a half years,” Fox said.

Aldergrove Rotary Club organizes and supports the program.

This was the first summer that the program partnered with Meals on Wheels during July and August. In the past, the program has given out gift cards for grocery stores, but this year packing and picking up of backpacks continued.

“From an operations point of view, it has gone well,” Fox said.

Meals on Wheels ran a great operation, and even hired the same shopper who selected the foods for the backpacks during the school year, ensuring continuity in the kinds of foods clients could expect.

They packed 71 Starfish backpacks a week, Fox said.

The only issue was a slight decrease in the number being picked up, as family’s summer plans disrupted their pick ups from time to time.

Now that the program is coming back, students heading into Betty Gilbert Middle’s Grade 6 who are on the program will continue to be accommodated, Fox said.

He also expects the schools will be referring more families to the program.

“I don’t suspect our backpack numbers will decrease,” Fox said. “We’re seen an increase in need.”

READ ALSO: Aldergrove Rotary clubs Starfish backpacks sent home with toques and scarves

READ ALSO: Starfish program packing backpacks for Aldergrove families in need

The other big change this year is on the fundraising side.

“We’ve had a couple of good fundraisers over the summer,” Fox said.

There was a lemonade stand at the Aldergrove Fair dedicated to donations to Starfish that raised $1,000, and a 50/50 draw at the last Fraser Valley Bandits basketball game brought in about $1,700.

This fall, the Pasta Party fundraiser will be back for the first time since the pandemic. Supported by Bonetti Meats, it will be held this year on Oct. 29 at the St. Dunstan’s Anglican church hall.

“It’s one of our main fundraisers,” said Fox, and they’re glad to be able to hold it again.

In addition, Rotary clubs in Langley are supporting the program through their 50/50 mega draw, which had more than $220,000 as a jackpot. The draw was set for Aug. 19, after Advance Times deadlines.

The program is ready for an increase in demand if it comes with volunteers, as well. The Aldergrove Community Secondary School (ACSS) hairdressing students are helping out again this year, and at present there’s plenty of hands to help with that end of things, Fox said.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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