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Breakfast versus playground: Our confused priorities

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 06:00 am

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Recently, a group of St. Albertans wanted to send their kids to space camp in Québec but they lost $228,000 when the travel company went under. The kids were sad. The parents were pretty sad too, I bet.

Luckily, this community rallied to get the space campers there on time. In three weeks, they raised $26,000 more than was needed.

This echoed the enthusiasm from last year when the community again rallied behind a project to build a new school playground. Usually these things take years and years of fundraising. Playground equipment can get expensive. No one puts out a bunch of tire swings on old ropes any more.

People opened up their wallets and purses with great fervour. Within a few months the public had thrown more than $180,000 into the hat and city council topped it up with a $60,000 grant.

All of this is wonderful and speaks to the generosity and compassion of the human spirit. When we all band together, there is no limit to the good that we can do.

Uh … so how come the St. Albert Food Bank and SAIF (Stop Abuse in Families) always seem to be scrounging for loose change in the couch? Yes, these agencies have their major fundraisers but they never have the momentum or the public fascination like the space camp or the playground did. Not even close.

The food bank’s website (www.stalbertfb.com/charity-information-2014) says that it hopes to raise $214,200 this year just to pay its staff, its rent and cover its overhead and other administrative costs. That doesn’t even include the food donations and occasional purchases it makes so it can help people to eat when they don’t have enough money to live in this expensive city.

Same deal with SAIF. Its website (www.stopabuse.ca/how-you-can-help/donate) says that it needs $120,000. I bet they’d be happier with $200,000 too.

Where’s the public outcry? We all know that St. Albert is a compassionate and philanthropic city. There are a lot of people who make six figure salaries and live in mansions throughout our beautiful burg too … I bet it wouldn’t take any sweat for all of us to gather up $1 million for these two charities every year.

People are generous. People are compassionate. All people need is to have their heartstrings tugged in the right way, plus a compelling thought or image to prod things along.

So here it is … take all of those space camp and playground kids and imagine that none of them have enough food. A lot of them are already in this situation.

Imagine that they also live in abusive and violent households. That’s not uncommon either. Now imagine all their schoolmates in the same situation.

That’s what is on the line.

If St. Albertans don’t ante up then the food bank and SAIF are going to be kicked to the curb. What kind of a community will we be then? One that has great playground equipment and wonderful space camps for all the starving kids to go to. We will be a city with all of our priorities exactly wrong.

Scott Hayes is the visual arts, human interest and community service reporter for the St. Albert Gazette.


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