Dave and Diane Balsor of Ocean Park Developments Ltd. have supported the Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society with big personal donations in the past, but a few weeks ago, they outdid themselves with a $100,000 donation to the cause.
Dan Kehler, co-ordinator of the Surrey Fire Fighters School Nutritional Snack Program, said the family has made other smaller donations as well, and this level of support has allowed the program to expand.
The School Nutritional Snack Program, started a decade ago, has now grown to “95 schools and counting,” he said, and this year they are able to offer more variety as well.
“The average Surrey citizen would be amazed the number of kids who come to school with little or nothing,” said Kehler. He added the city’s firefighters distributed more than $100,000 of food last year.
“It doesn’t affect just Whalley, Newton and parts of Guildford. It’s Surrey-wide. We have a city-wide need.”
Though the name of the program would suggest it provides snacks, it has grown to now include breakfast and lunch items if requested by the school.
Kehler said the guys picked up a “monstrous” Costco order on Sept. 17 after receiving requests from schools.
Dozens of off-duty firefighters met at Costco in Newton to load up their pickup trucks with granola bars, fruit juice, cereal, bread, fruit and more, which they dispersed to the city’s fire halls. The food is then be distributed by on-duty fire crews to schools served by the charity.
After the big September order, the program tops up the schools throughout the school year.
Kehler said contributions from the community are also crucial to the existence of the program.
In the past they were limited to nonperishable items.
“Because of the Balsors’ donation, we are able to take on more schools and we’re also going to be introducing dairy into some select high-need schools,” he said.
“They’ve allowed us to take the program to a new level.”
But to keep this much-needed supplemental nutrition available beyond this academic year, the firefighters are going to need support from the public.
Kehler said he was drawn to heading up the program because he’s seen the need first-hand. It doesn’t matter why children are in need – it’s just important they get fed.
“At the end of the day, we just care about getting a little something into little Billy’s mouth,” he said.
While the Surrey school district has a lunch and breakfast program, the firefighters’ program fills in the gaps, Kehler said. And the need is there.
For information on how to donate, visit surreyfirefighters.com or call 604-574-5785.