For the second year in a row, Castlegar’s alternative school hosted a luncheon for its students and their parents and guardians.
Nina Verigin, a child and youth care worker at Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre (KCLC), first organized a Christmas luncheon at the centre last year.
“It started last year after Thanksgiving,” she explained. “When I came back after the long weekend and I asked the students how their dinner went and if they were all full of turkey, a lot of them said, ‘No, there wasn’t enough groceries,’ and their moms said they’d give them a rain cheque on the dinner. And it broke my heart, because of course I had this huge dinner and I thought about it, and I thought, ‘It’s not going to be that way for Christmas. I’m going to make it different. I’m going to make it like I have it at home.’”
So Verigin and her husband decided to make a Christmas lunch for all of the students. Verigin approached businesses in the community to ask for support. The lunch was a success, and so this year she did the same thing and asked a few more businesses to pitch in. “I got an overwhelming amount,” she said.
Not only did businesses donate toward the dinner, but some donated gift cards as well. Fabric Land also donated fabric, which the kids used to sew their own stockings, and on Wednesday KCLC staff used the extra funds to fill them with gifts.
But that wasn’t the only gift students at KCLC received. Volunteers from the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ’s (USCC) Cultural Interpretive Society (CIS) made 35 quilts and 35 pillows — one for each student to take home. Eileen Kooznetsoff, chair of the USCC CIS, Paulette Markin, treasurer, and Marilyn Pearson, coordinator for the quilt and pillow project, attended the luncheon to present the students with their gifts.
Other representatives from businesses or organizations that sponsored the luncheon attended as well, including mayor Lawrence Chernoff on behalf of the City of Castlegar and Andy Davidoff, who presented a donation toward the dinner on behalf of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union.
Throughout the year, KCLC provides an alternative to public school, where students can receive one-on-one attention.
“KCLC is an alternate school and that being said, alternate schools provide an environment that meets the needs, not just academic needs, of kids. Sometimes they’re here for other reasons besides academic, although academic is their ultimate goal. We’re dealing with mental health issues, poverty — a lot of, just, uncertainty and maybe even anxiety keeps them out of the high schools.”
Jamie Rew, an 18-year-old student at KCLC who will graduate in the spring, appreciates the one-on-one support that KCLC provides.
“There’s so many teachers that can actually help us. Its’ a lot better than actual high school. We get a lot more attention for our needs, so I like that about it,” he said. Rew’s favourite subjects are cooking and art, and he plans to attend the Selkirk College Professional Cook Training program in Nelson after graduation.
Rew also appreciated the gifts from the ladies at CIS. “I think it’s a great gift and I need [a quilt], to tell you the truth. I’m going to be using it a lot, so it’s exciting,” he said.