The Friendly City Optimist Club of Moose Jaw is focused on supporting youths in the community, and on Tuesday, Nov. 21, the club plans to reach out by providing fresh fruit to hungry students.
The initiative began as a pancake breakfast event, and today the club focuses on healthy food options.
“We started out with doing pancake breakfasts, (which included) pancakes, sausages, juice, and fruit,” said Ellen Sjoberg, an Optimist Club member helping with the organization’s food projects.
“Because of COVID-19 coming in, it got to the point where it wasn’t feasible going into the schools and doing that anymore,” she explained. To continue helping these hungry children, the club talked to several teachers to determine the best way to adapt to changing circumstances.
“So, we talked to a bunch of the schools, and they said there’s a real need for fruit, granola bars — that sort of thing,” Sjoberg said. As a result of this feedback, the Optimist Club decided to supply children with fresh fruit options.
“What we’ve done last year is apples and oranges. This year, because of the price of (groceries), we’ve had to just get apples. We’re actually supplying some of the largest schools with two cases of apples, and the smaller schools (with) one case of apples,” she said.
At first, the club planned to exclusively include apples citing rising grocery costs, but thanks to a generous individual working at the Town ‘N’ Country Mall Smitty’s location, students will also receive oranges this year.
“And Mark at (The Town ‘N’ Country Mall) Smitty’s is another person who usually supplies us with a good portion of the oranges to add to what we have,” Sjoberg said.
“We also have Dr. Stationwala, who is a podiatrist in town (and) who also gives us a large donation to go towards the kids,” she added, noting another example of local generosity.
“This is the second year we’ve done fruit, and (Dr. Stationwala) has helped this year and last year. It’s important to him, because he knows where that’s going, and he knows the kids are getting it. He’s very dedicated to us.”
To source the fresh produce, members including Sjoberg shop around to compare prices and make sure the club’s limited resources go as far as possible.
Sjoberg made a special mention to Sherry, a produce manager at the Co-op for her much-appreciated assistance. “I really have to hand it to the Moose Jaw Co-op, because without them we certainly couldn’t give the amount that we’re giving,” she said.
This year, the Optimist Club ordered 22 cases of apples, and each case contains between 48 and 58 apples that will be delivered to each of Moose Jaw’s public and separate school divisions.
“The teachers just love it. It works so well for them to get the snacks out to the kids and to help the kids who aren’t getting the nutrition that they need,” explained Sjoberg. “It’s scary how many kids don’t get anything to eat before they get to school in the morning.
“We’ve been told that lots of time there will be other children who come in and say, ‘I’m really hungry, can I not have something to eat too?’ How do you say no?”
The donation comes at a crucial time, as grocery prices are currently on the rise. This makes a difficult situation even more challenging for many struggling parents who can’t afford to purchase a regular supply of fresh produce on top of other rising expenses.
Most of the club’s feedback comes directly from the children who receive the food donations.
“The kids are always so grateful when we get feedback from them. We get cards from a lot of them and thank-you notes from a lot of them (as well),” said Sjoberg. “Lots of times they’ll do a class card and everybody will sign it… It’s really nice.”
The Friendly City Optimist Club is a local non-profit organization focused on helping children in the community.
The organization raises funds through events such as an annual dance, ‘Name That Tune,’ private and public barbecue events, events at the Western Development Museum, selling Grey Cup tickets, raffles, “and anything we can think of,” Sjoberg explained.
“The nice thing about it is that all of the money goes toward the kids, and it goes to pediatrics at the hospital, the Kids Wish Network, some kids sports events (including) kids who can’t participate for financial reasons… and anything kid related.”
“Last year (2022) alone, we gave $9,000 to the Optimist Baseball Park on South Hill, to try and bring it up to par, put in walkways, and fix the bathrooms,” Sjoberg said, citing one example of the club’s outreach.
To help out or volunteer with the Optimist Club, visit the ‘Moose Jaw Friendly Optimist Club’ on Facebook for further information.
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