Just when they needed it most, the Rimbey Food Bank received a big helping hand from what many would believe is a very unlikely source.
With a semi-trailer full of food from the Red Deer Food Bank on its way to Rimbey and only a handful of volunteers on hand, the junior students from the West Country Outreach School (WCOS) stepped up to the plate, rolled up their sleeves and made quick work of 29,000 pounds of food including unloading the pallets, transporting the items into the local food bank and neatly stowed it away on shelves in anticipation of the upcoming Christmas rush.
“The involvement in the food bank came about around three years ago. At that time, we had our students volunteer through our Living and Learning Program. We had a small group of students go over to the food bank each week and help where needed,” said Principal Sheila Swier. “We rotated the kids and it wasn’t really all that voluntary because if the student was in the course, then he or she was expected to be involved. Our goal was to have students give back to the community. Our community has done and continues to do so much for us here at the school, we as the adults in the building, really wanted to impart the importance of giving back to our students. So, an idea was born.”
This marks the second year in a row that students from the school have chipped in to help out which Swier said instills a sense of accomplishment in the students while at the same time, allowed them to see how easy it is to make a difference in the community.
“Last year, the kids were asked to help unload the truck and it was a positive experience for them, so this year, when we were approached, we thought we’d get involved again,” she said. “This year, our Grades 7 through 10 unloaded the truck and even though they didn’t actually volunteer, not one of them complained. Each and every one of them did his or her part for the day. Oftentimes, kids have no idea what change could possibly be and have no idea where to begin. Projects such as the food bank provide them the answer they seek. They are able to make a difference at little cost to them, yet big benefit to someone else. And they truly do see how cool that is.”
The food was delivered to Rimbey by Louis Breton of Hell Bound Services Corporation of Eckville whose owner Darrin Berdahl, donated both the employee’s time and the truck that was used. As well, the trailer used to haul the food was donated by Danny Conn of Garnets Trucking of Sylvan Lake and was unloaded by Rob Rondeel of Rimbey Transport who donated his time and a forklift to take the pallets off of the truck.
The truckload arrived at approximately 10 a.m. and with the combined efforts of volunteers and the students, the entire job was completed in just two and a half hours.
While the youth in Rimbey have been taking a bit of heat, justified or otherwise, over the past number of weeks – particularly in theses pages, Swier said the efforts of her students could and should go a long way in changing the perception among many in the community regarding the bad press attached to Rimbey’s youth.
“Without a doubt, I am very proud of my kids here at WCOS. I am blessed with a staff who shares my vision and together we work with our kids to try to assist them in making better decisions for themselves which will ultimately, benefit others,” she said. “There has certainly been much controversy regarding the youth of our community and it saddens me. Without a doubt, there have been some terrible mistakes made and consequences must be rendered. The important piece in this journey is for people to learn from their mistakes and to move on in a more positive light. Perhaps that sounds naive. I prefer to consider my thoughts hopeful. Because at the end of the day, hope is what we need to provide our youth and each other. Ultimately, what we do here at WCOS is provide hope and second chances for those who need it.”
Needless to say the Rimbey Food Bank, which saw more than 40,000 pounds of food go through their doors during the Christmas rush last year, were equally impressed and appreciative of the efforts put forth by the students and reflected the comments made by their principal.
The West Country Outreach School has helped at the food bank many times and again participated this year. Without their help the day would have been much longer with more work for all of the older volunteers,” said Manager Heather Torris. “Fifteen amazing students, their teachers and educational assistants arrived first thing in the morning to help us get ready for the shipment and stayed until the work was done. The work ethic shown by the youth was incredible and their young muscles and energy certainly made a difference on the workload for the rest of the volunteers. The Food Bank is definitely appreciates these young people assisting us whenever they are available, Their efforts make Rimbey and the surrounding area a better community that is able to take care of those in need.”