The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News


(From left) Alina Olson, Teresa Caldovino and executive pastor at Burnett Fellowship Church Paul Olson,
pack the Starfish program backpacks for delivery to Golden Ears elementary. (THE NEWS/files)

Starfish program in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows hoping to expand
Two more schools may be added

COLLEEN FLANAGAN, Oct. 2, 2018 6:00 p.m.

The Meadow Ridge Rotary Starfish Pack program is aiming to add two more schools this year. Thanks to several different fundraisers held in the community, there is extra funding for backpacks.

“We’re just amazed how the community embraced this whole program,” exclaimed Ineke Boekhorst, chair of the Starfish Pack committee.

Demand keeps growing for the program that feeds children in need in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows during the school year. The program supplies backpacks filled with enough food for two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners, plus snacks for children in need over the weekends. They are packed by volunteers at Burnett Fellowship Church before being delivered to participating schools in the community.

Each backpack costs $525 for one student for the school year. Schools are only added to the list based on funding.

Meadowridge Rotary launched the Starfish Backpack project in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows in September 2016.

When school let out for the summer at the end of June this year, 76 backpacks were being handed out at eight local schools. Currently, 66 packs are being distributed at the eight schools, but Boekhorst expects that number to increase to 80 or 90 within the next two months. “It’s always the first weeks that the counsellors and the principals have to figure out where the kids are at,” said Boekhorst. Overall, she added, the need in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows is anywhere in between 120 to 150 packs.

Distribution of the packs started at the end of September, thanks to the work of volunteers through Burnett Fellowship Church in Maple Ridge. Pastor Paul Olson first got involved with the Starfish program after meeting Boekhorst through Christmas in the Park and the Santa Claus parade. She was impressed by the number of volunteers who would turn out from the church to help with the two events and invited Olson to a Rotary luncheon, where he learned about Starfish.

“It was just such an easy hit for us because we do Christmas hampers every year,” said Olson. It is also a cause dear to his heart because he grew up on food hampers as a child. “Lots of times people think of the food hampers are just the leftovers you don’t want or that have expired.”

He told his congregation that this was their opportunity to bless these children. The congregation raised $20,000 right away and donates regularly to the program. “We don’t even have to sell it,” Olson said of the program. “It sells itself.”

The program is sponsored by the Meadow Ridge Rotary Club, Save On Foods, The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News, Base Digital Agency Ltd, Friends In Need Food Bank and Burnett Fellowship.

• To donate, contact 604-467-2420 or go to