Toasted bagels, muffins, cereal, juice, fruit, yogurt or boiled eggs — it’s the breakfast Mother always said everyone should have — and it’s available free to all Seaton secondary school students five days a week thanks to volunteers from Faith Baptist Church.
“It’s such a convenience. I used it all through high school,” said Serina Gignac, a Grade 12 student who now helps with the serving. “It means a lot to kids who don’t get breakfast at home for any reason. A lot of people come. I think it’s about 75 each day. And it’s nice to know someone cares about teenagers.”
Faith Baptist Church involvement started 11 years ago when the church rented the gym at Harwood elementary and asked the school if there was anything they could do to help.
“They said they liked to give students a snack at recess if there were donations but the students didn’t get anything if there were no donations. We took it on and we still do it,” said volunteer Anne Mae Rea. who is at Harwood two days a week with other church volunteers other days. She has volunteered at Seaton every school day for seven years.
“We’re filling a need, that’s the important thing. Kids aren’t going to learn if they’re hungry,” said Rea, who received a provincial Principal Volunteer Award in Vancouver last May.
She has been joined in the breakfast program by Faith Baptist Church youth pastor Chris Laser for the past two-and-a-half years serving breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. when classes start.
“We like to give them a meal and maybe a little joke in the morning to start the day off,” said Laser. “If they want to talk about anything, I’m there as a caring adult. We are not replacing the school or the home, but supporting them. I care about these kids and want to see them successful in school and the choices they make.
“Each student needs a different kind of encouragement. I still remember the adults who were there and encouraging and instrumental in my upbringing.”
Rea likes to set up the small cafeteria kitchen like a home kitchen where the students can choose what they want. The students are invited to the church, which is near the school, for lunch on Tuesdays and for an after-school open door program to relax, have a snack and play board games on Fridays.
“I would like to see other churches involved with their local schools if the schools request it,” said Rea.
Seaton principal Jackie Kersey describes Rea as having a special impact on the students.
“She is there every morning to greet them, ask them about important things in their lives, encourage them to stay in school, and offer them something to eat. She is someone who connects with young people and makes them feel special. She serves up love,” she said.
Josiah Dyck, Grade 12, is another student who started coming for the breakfast and now stays to help.
“It’s a lot of fun here. It’s a real home feeling and all the students love it,” he said.