Maple Ridge Christmas Hamper hurt by school strike

Annual student coin drive not taking place.

Lorraine Bates of the Christmas Hamper isn’t blaming anyone.

Lorraine Bates of the Christmas Hamper isn’t blaming anyone.

The labour dispute between B.C. teachers and the provincial government will indirectly take money away from families in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows who need help at Christmas time.

Schools across the district ran a coin drive that raised $4,000 for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper last year, but it won’t happen in time for Christmas 2014.

“They just didn’t get time to organize it,” said Lorraine Bates, spokesperson for the Hamper Society, which provided 575 families with toys and Christmas dinner last year.

“They lost a whole month.”

The teachers’ strike took two weeks off the end of the 2013-2014 school year, and two more off the start of school in September.

Bates would typically speak to school leaders about the hamper and its work to inspire the kids, and they would go back to their schools and organize hot chocolate days or other creative ventures to raise money. This year, she didn’t hear from them, then just got the bad news this week.

Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough meetings of the District Student Advisory Council before the Dec. 19 school break, said Kristi Blakeway the principal of Harry Hooge elementary and a staff member who works with the leadership group.

She noted that students leaders Miranda Tymoshchuck and Jenna Crews – longtime student organizers in the district who promoted the coin collection effort – both graduated last year. A new group of student leaders is learning to replace their work and focus.

“It’s not that the kids don’t want to help,” said Blakeway, adding that some schools will be running their own fundraisers for the Christmas Hamper independently.

“Schools are always wanting to help out around Christmas.”

Blakeway said the new leadership group has chosen a theme of “Kids helping kids” for this year. The idea is to have the district’s 20 elementary schools run a 15-week campaign to address issues around child poverty in 2015.

“In fact, what might come if this may be more beneficial to the community – more sustained,” said Blakeway.

“One door closes and another one opens,” said Bates. “It’s not anyone’s fault.”