Families get boost from backpack giveaway
- John Lagimodiere | September 15, 2021
Amanda Sanderson and four of her children emerged from the White Buffalo Youth Lodge laden with backpacks and school supplies for the year. That heavy load erased the financial burden of her five kids’ return to school.
“This will help me out a lot,” said Amanda as she adjusted the extra backpack on her shoulder for her youngest, who’d stayed at home because they are too young to be vaccinated yet. “I don’t receive school supply allowance so it will help me a tremendous amount. With five children this is saving me hundreds. It is good this program. The Tribal Council helps a lot of people all the time.”
The backpacks are from a partnership between Nutrien and the Saskatoon Tribal Council. For the past seven years, Nutrien, their suppliers, the Tribal Council and countless volunteers assemble backpacks with the year’s worth of school supplies. In late August they gave out more than 2,000 of them to anyone who showed up.
“We set a target. Two years ago, it was 2,500 packs and a full-fledged carnival,” said Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand. “This year because of Covid we had to scale back. But you can see from the line ups here that people want that help. Families are in dire need of support. We see all different cultures here. It is about doing things to keep people safe. We are spacing out the families. We clean after every group of twenty go through, we are all wearing masks.”
The need in the community is real. Lisa Mooney, Potash Lead, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Nutrien, says that is why Nutrien pulls together their partners to do this. “Back to school can be very expensive for families with supplies and clothes. If we can lessen the burden, it’s what we do,” she said. “We also know the legacy of the residential schools. Back to school can bring up bad memories. We want to build a generation where young people are excited to get back to school. For me, seeing the kids excited and talking about what grade and school they are going to, that’s why we do it.”
The event wouldn’t happen without many partners. Tribal Chief Arcand thinks that by being here, the sponsors and volunteers see reconciliation in action. “This type of investment at the start of the school year means something for the businesses as well. They are at the tables right now giving the supplies to the kids. They see where the investment is going and who they are helping,” said Arcand. “It is humbling for them to see this. The Tribal Council is bringing people together, we are uniting so that everyone can have a quality of life. The White Buffalo Youth Lodge is here for everyone, and it is really making a difference.”
Even though the back packs ease some stress, the parents and kids have mixed emotions and still must deal with a Covid school year. “My kids going to Mount Royal and St Mary’s,” said Amanda Sanderson. “I’m worried of my young one going to school because she can’t get the COVID shot yet. But other than that, they will be happy to get back with their friends.”