Free school supplies given away at M’akola Back to School Picnic

Denise Titian, August 17, 2017

With the school year fast approaching, students and parents flocked to the Port Alberni Friendship Centre on Thursday for a back to school picnic. (Denise Titian photos)

Port Alberni — 

Dozens of families showed up at the Port Alberni Friendship Center Aug. 17 for a fun-filled festival-like picnic sponsored by M’akola Housing Society.

Families were treated to a free lunch of hamburgers and hotdogs while children lined up for boxes of free school supplies.

Also on hand were students from UVic offering fun science activities for the children and there were bouncy castles inside the centre where happy little children burned off some energy.

Ron Rice is contracted by the Surrounded by Cedar Society, a delegated child and family care agency that operates in Victoria, BC. He said the M’akola Back to School Picnic started in Victoria in 2003 with funding from the provincial government. The event is a social, family fun event that brings free school supplies to families that need it most.

Over the years the event was expanded to include all Vancouver Island Friendship Centers and now includes stops in 11 communities including some in northern B.C.

“We go to Victoria, Duncan, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Courtenay, Campbell River, and then we take a one day break before going to Surrey, Mission, Prince George, Terrace and Prince Rupert,” said Rice.

In those 12 days the group delivers 3,500 boxes of school supplies.

“We work with the Victoria School District and they provided us lists of school supplies by grade,” said Rice. He went to say that the boxes of supplies are purchased from Monk Office Supply with funding from the provincial government, corporate donations, various foundation grants and in-kind contributions.

Besides school supplies the children were given backpacks and specially designed insulated lunch bags with Native designs on each one.