When winter arrives, some families in Nanaimo have to choose between paying their electrical bill or buying food.
Quarterway Elementary School’s 354 students are gathering donations for the school’s annual Great Change Exchange coin drive, organized by the school’s Grade 7 leadership committee.
This year, the school is donating the money to the News Bulletin’s Coins for Kids drive, which supports the annual Great Nanaimo Toy Drive and the Nanaimo Boys and Girls Club.
“As a school, we want to reach out to the community and be supportive, so actually the leadership came up with this on their own – Coins for Kids,” said Shannon Apland, school vice-principal. “It’s not necessarily just for Christmas, because not everyone celebrates it. It was more … for people in need or families in need [that] we wanted to do this.”
As of Thursday, students had raised about $215. The campaign will continue until mid-December.
The school has been involved in previous coin drives, but this year teaching staff found a way to add more value to the fundraising by incorporating lessons and classroom discussions to get kids thinking about causes and effects of seasonal shifts, such as weather conditions, that can add financial stress for families already facing budget challenges.
“We have a big science talk about living expenses going up,” Apland said. “In winter, daylight goes down, lights go on, hydro is expensive. With snow coming, [students] might think snow is free, but no, you might miss work or you have to buy a shovel to shovel your driveway, you have to buy snow tires.”
Winter clothing purchases also take bites out of meagre incomes.
“There’s also food,” said Zoë Wood, leadership committee member. “If you’re going to buy the kids a present then maybe you won’t have enough money for food, too.”
The school is also holding a food drive as another way to help families who come up short at Christmas.
Children drop their donations into little gold-coloured ceramic coin banks shaped like owls that Apland purchased for each class. The owl is symbolic of scholastic learning.
“It’s important because a lot of families are in need and don’t have enough money to give presents,” said Chatherine Shi, leadership committee member.
Donations to Coins for Kids can be dropped off at the News Bulletin, 777 Poplar St., or at a community drop-off location, such as Canadian Tire, Northridge Fitness, La-Z-Boy, Royal LePage at Brooks Landing and Quality Foods.