Students from North Star Academy Laval enjoyed their day on February 14th by distributing hot drinks, meals and clothing to people experiencing homelessness in front of the Old Brewery Mission in Montreal.
For 16 years now, the school principal of this Laval’s English school, Josée Pepin, and her students have been the organizers of this event.
“I want to show students that they [those who are experiencing homelessness] are people just like us,” explains the private school’s principal.
“No one is immune to homelessness,” adds Lynne Dupuis, head of philanthropic development for the Old Brewery Mission.
Denis is a good example. “I have worked all my life,” says this former showman. “Because of COVID, I lost my job,” he continues.
Here, at the Old Brewery’s shelter, Denis has a place to sleep, while waiting for the travelling carnivals to come back stronger.
Valentine’s Day for all
Whether February 14th falls on a Saturday or a chilling day, students of the Academy located in Chomedey can be found here in front of the Old Brewery Mission.
“It’s always on Valentine’s Day,” explains Josée Pepin. It’s part of giving your time. “We can’t just give it away when it’s convenient.”
Quickly, when the students take out the coffee jugs, a line forms to receive the donations.
Many hide their precarious situation well. A man shows up wearing a Canada Goose coat and Adidas shoes. Others are freshly shaven, their hair neatly cut and styled.
Guillaume appreciates the socks and the sweater he was able to take. He has been homeless for five or six years and has been going to the shelter since December.
Angela Kolaric is the Academy’s administrative manager. It is her first distribution.
She was used to working behind the scenes of this event. She is amazed by the number of people who have come to receive donations.
A man asks if he can take a pair of socks. Mira, a tenth-grade student, offers him a hat aswell. Politely, the man refuses.
“It’s surprising how humble they are,” notes Angela Polarik. “They want to leave things for others who might need them more than them.”
On this mild February day, the initiative is popular. After an hour, all that is left is a dash of coffee and half a bag of clothes.
All packaged meals are long gone.
“I was surprised to see how they were surprised,” says Morgan in 11th grade. “How surprised they were to see that we came to do that.”
“We had a lot of clothes, but they went so fast!” observes Sarwehs a pupil of the same year.
The project involves the whole school. But only the oldest students, those in the 10th and 11th grade, take part in the distribution.
While those in the seventh grade pack meals.
Every student has the chance to contribute to the generous operation.
Usually, the group drives out to distribute the surpluses.
This year it will not be necessary.
Mira, Aditi, Yoono, Sarwesh and Morgan were chosen to come and experience the distribution clothes, hot drinks and meals in front of the Old Brewery Mission. (Photo 2M.Media–Edith Boisvert)
For Yoono, another student in 10th grade, the activity made him aware of the needs of others. “We need to do more for the community. I didn’t think there would be so many people.”
Despite the difficulties that the beneficiaries are encountering, “Everyone is in a good mood,” says Aditi, a student in Grade 11.
This year, the school has divided its student workforce to expand its offer to different locations. A second group was present near the Chez Doris women’s shelter.