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First Student challenge is huge success

Wednesday, 13 December 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

First Student challenge is huge success
Photo by Shannon Robison


First Student challenge is huge success


By Auralea Boldt

“We stand out here and make people feel bad,” jokes Sharon Roberts, standing outside the bus for First Student’s annual Stuff a Bus fundraiser. It has been parked strategically, to be visible but also to block the wind.

Stuff a Bus has a good head start this year. The seats are partially filled with some of the 2,680 food items collected and loaded by area students as part of First Student’s Holiday Train fundraiser.

Sharon, transportation co-ordinator for First Student and mastermind behind the fundraiser, describes how busloads of excited children would be descending upon Pincher Station at 10:30 a.m. on Monday — just in time for the train.Instead of taking three busloads to the CP Rail Holiday Train as originally planned, the bus company would now be transporting six.

Sharon seems a little unsure of how it happened.

Originally, the contest, which challenged the grades in each school to collect the most non-perishable food items, was going to take only the winning grade in each school.

With the help of volunteer bus drivers, and owing to very small class sizes and “neck and neck races” in some schools, all of Livingstone School, grades 1 to 3 from St. Michael’s, and both Grade 2 classes at Canyon School would be in attendance.

“At Livingstone there were four grade levels who collected within 10 items of each other,” Sharon says. “So yes, we decided to bring in all the kids, but I guess the combined Grade 3 and 4 collected the most.”

It grew even more logistically complicated at St. Michael’s because grades 1, 2 and 3 French immersion students are one combined class.“It was hard to judge, so we decided that the grades 1, 2, 3 — French and English — collected the most total,” Sharon says.

She is clear that it will be the teachers — not the bus drivers — in charge of the students.

“Everyone thinks it’s a great idea,” Sharon says. “They want to do it every year.”

With palpable relief, she acknowledges the train only runs every second year.

It’s a busy time of year for First Student, between the Holiday Train challenge and the Christmas Stuff a Bus — an event that’s been running since 2012 in the community — not to mention loading and unloading the food donations.

As Sharon is interviewed, she fields inquiries from donors, accepts donations, and finds a home for food items on the bus seats.

The fundraiser appears to be going well.

Pincher Creek Co-op, which general manager Jim Peace says is involved with too many community fundraisers to even to list, assists the project by having staff members prepare bundles for purchase.

Donors can buy a $7, $15 or $20 package: a spaghetti dinner, essentials or breakfast bundle.Ultimately he credits community members with purchasing the donations.

Food for the needy is an important cause for Co-op, especially over the holiday season.

“I didn’t expect the amount of donations,” Sharon says.

A competitive spirit was ignited by the challenge, and harnessed for the good.

Sharon says family, friends — and even clients at one parent’s work — were swept up in the students’ challenge, bringing in food items for donation.

At Canyon School the grade level contest ran neck and neck, with students uncharacteristically hanging onto every word of the school’s announcements for a clue as to who was in the lead.

Inside the Co-op, the Lions collect donations for community Christmas hampers, and issue tax receipts.

In true Christmas spirit, Sharon hands cash donations to the Lions for their Christmas hampers.

“It’s all going to the same place,” she says.

Stuff a Bus donations go to the McMan Food Bank, which also supplies many Christmas items for the Legion’s hampers. All the food goes to those in need.

“Every year we seem to do better,” Sharon says. As if to emphasize the point, she turns and accepts another donation.