Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 29, 2004
All children deserve breakfast, after school care, summer camp
Edmonton's Inner City Children's Project Society program remove poverty's handcuffs.
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Breakfast in the morning seems simple enough. So does having a place to go after school and activities to while away the summer holidays.
But poverty robs too many inner city children of these basics of life. So a year ago, Marcel St. Arnaud became president of the Edmonton Inner City Children's Project Society to help create a program to supply these needs to more than 100 inner-city elementary school children in the Boyle Street/McCauley area.
Based in a modest office in the Sacred Heart Parish rectory, the project provides a breakfast meal for children at Mother Teresa and McCauley Schools, as well as after-school programs and summer activities.
"The goal of this program is so when they graduate from the program, we have assisted them in becoming normal citizens," St. Arnaud said. "That's why I'm involved."
St. Arnaud was a teacher for 17 years and has children of his own. He also helps run a minor hockey school for the Canadian Athletic Club.
"I always see kids who are at the other end of the spectrum. Most of them were well-to-do and well looked after. It pains me to see kids who don't have food or who can't go to camp in the summer."
The Project Society offers free piano lessons, numerous social and recreational activities and a homework club included as part of its after-school programs, plus a seven-day summer camp.
Michelle Baker, program director for the project, says she is in the midst of lining up several activities for the kids this summer.
"We are looking at the possibility of setting up a program where we expand to include some 10 selected junior high students who will spend the summer discovering Edmonton," Baker said. "They would do a ton of activities throughout the city. I am a volunteer at the Valley Zoo and . . . "I'd like us to spend perhaps four hours every day at the zoo to do a lot of painting, creative work and games learning a lot about the animals."
Activity leaders basically act as parents in the summer camp program. They get the registration form filled out by the parents and then they supply basics such as soap, shampoo and conditioner.
"We drive the kids out to an Edmonton-area campground and then take them home after a week," Baker said.
Like everyone else
St. Arnaud recalls a trip he took with his children several years ago to Drumheller.
"I remember how thrilled my own kids were when I took them to the Tyrell Museum for spring break one year. We had a blast for four days," he said.
"A program like this enables children to get a taste of something other kids take for granted.
"We won't solve all of the problems that are out there, but we will help to make things a little more comfortable for these children."
The project is now looking to expand to the junior high level so that more kids get food as well as something to do before and after school. It might be music lessons, cooking lessons, life skills on how to get along with each other.
Funding for this child-friendly project comes from a variety of sources.
"We have substantial private funding in the form of an anonymous donor," St. Arnaud said. "We have fundraising events such as the 50/50 draw at an Edmonton Oilers' game. We have had a casino. We have some private donations and grants available through the provincial government and the City of Edmonton."
But without that anonymous donor, he says, the project "would be toast."
"We are always looking for donations and ways to acquire funds through different organizations," St. Arnaud said.
"We have hired a person to do that for us, linking up with various organizations and businesses to access the funds that are needed for this program."
The inner-city society was co-founded by Kimo Trent, now 82. The retired police officer from Honolulu served as society president from its inception in 1995 until last year. He is also past president of the McCauley Community League.
"For many years, the provincial government allocated funding for what they called community schooling, which included Sacred Heart School. That funding ceased," Trent said.
"We had programs for children, mainly for the early dismissals on Thursdays. These kids were out on the street while the single moms worked. That is what the program was all about."
When the province pulled its funding, a group of concerned neighbours banded together and went out seeking funding from various sources.
Fortunately, they found the anonymous donor who provided enough money so the children could have various in-school programs at Sacred Heart, St. Michael's and McCauley schools.
"The program became very popular with the children and it was serving a great purpose," Trent said. "We credit this success a lot to Doris Weiss who was in a position, with our funding, to implement the programs.
Junior high too
"It really took off. The principals in the schools swear by the programs. Our goal is to extend further into the community to the junior high students at St. Alphonsus, depending upon finances, of course."
Any person who wishes to make a donation to or volunteer with the Edmonton Inner City Children's Project Society is encouraged to call Marcel St. Arnaud at 420-6102 or 424-2676.