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Chilliwack church donates $10,000 to help feed kids

Money comes from sale of 1 of Cheam View United Church’s buildings
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From left: Shelley MacDonell, Don Armstrong, Lianne McCarthy, and Verna Hoogeveen chat about what food items are put inside the Starfish Pack hampers and sent home with kids in the Chilliwack School District every two weeks. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

A church is helping feed young families in need by donating $10,000 from the sale of one of its buildings to a school program.

Cheam View United Church sold Rosedale United Church earlier this year and one member suggested they donate a portion of the money to the Starfish Pack program which provides food to kids in the Chilliwack School District and their families.

Verna Hoogeveen’s daughter works in the district and she mentioned that at one school, only one family was receiving food through the Starfish program when actually six families had applied.

That’s when Hoogeveen realized the need for more funding for the program. She brought it up with her fellow church members during their outreach team meeting and nobody said no.

“If there’s a need, why don’t we do something?” she said.

It’s not just the one school where Hoogeveen’s daughter works that has a growing need. Overall the numbers are up throughout the district.

Last year, 275 families in Chilliwack were receiving food through the Starfish Pack program. When organizers realized there wasn’t enough funding to support that same number at the beginning of this school year, they were forced to cut it down to 145 families.

“We asked every school to reduce their numbers by 40 per cent from where we were at the end of last year,” said Lianne McCarthy.

She works at Bernard Elementary and handles the Starfish Pack numbers for the school district. McCarthy recalled having to email the families.

“It was like broken hearts everywhere when I had to tell them at the beginning of this year,” she said.

Shelley MacDonell, member of Rotary Club of Chilliwack who helps put the Starfish Pack hampers together, said she and her team were “very worried” when they heard there were only 145 packs for the school year.

“We know we’re not meeting the need,” MacDonell said.

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From left: Lianne McCarthy, Don Armstrong, Shelley MacDonell, Verna Hoogeveen and Rev. Laura Hermakin chat about what food items are put inside the Starfish Pack hampers and sent home with kids in the Chilliwack School District every two weeks. Hoogeveen and Hermakin are with Cheam View United Church which donated $10,000 to the program on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

But about three months later, they heard about the donation coming in from Cheam View United Church.

MacDonell and other Rotary members – she calls them the “worker bees” – gather every other Tuesday to assemble the packs at the Salvation Army food bank. The packs are delivered the following day to the schools.

During the most recent delivery, they were able to once again provide 275 families with packs, up from 145 in September.

McCarthy said even though they were able to increase the number of packs because of the donation, there is still a wait list.

“We will stretch it as far as we possibly can,” Don Armstrong with the Salvation Army Food Bank said when asked how far the $10,000 will go. “Our buying power now is two-to-one – it used to be of three-to-one – because of inflation and because of pricing of the food.”

It’s a double whammy. More people are requesting Starfish Packs in Chilliwack, and they can’t put as much food in the hampers as they once could because costs have risen.

They try to put enough food into each hamper to last the family at least a week.

According to the Starfish Pack program numbers, it costs $575 to feed a child for one school year.

“Cheam View United thankfully came forward with a donation and I hope that’s going to inspire people and inspire other organizations,” MacDonell said.

Cheam View United Church was formed in 2020 when Chilliwack United, Rosedale United and Mt. Shannon United amalgamated.

Rev. Laura Hermakin said the reason Cheam View exists is to help the community by making donations such as this one.

“Why do we exist if it isn’t to alleviate pain and suffering? There’s no reason to go to church if we aren’t looking to share love in the world.”

For more info, or to donate, go to starfishpack.com/chilliwack. When donating online, write “Starfish Pack” in the “send a message” section to ensure the money goes directly to the program.

READ MORE: Worshipping together: three United churches in Chilliwack amalgamate

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From left: Lianne McCarthy, Don Armstrong, Shelley MacDonell, Verna Hoogeveen and Rev. Laura Hermakin stand behind some of the food items that are put inside the Starfish Pack hampers and sent home with kids in the Chilliwack School District every two weeks. Hoogeveen and Hermakin are with Cheam View United Church which donated $10,000 to the program on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)


Jenna Hauck

About the Author: Jenna Hauck

I started my career at The Chilliwack Progress in 2000 as a photojournalist.
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