Last year was a biggie for our family: our only son, Cameron, started full-time Pre-K at St. Jude Elementary on the South Shore of Montreal. The bean adjusted beautifully and made friends with his little classmates, but it wasn’t until we decided to start volunteering for our school’s Breakfast Club that we really found ourselves becoming attached to our school.
It started as a one-morning thing, just to try it out. I’d wanted to find a way to volunteer at my son’s school, hopefully with him, so he could give back a little. And, given we were morning people, serving breakfast seemed like the perfect activity.
Meeting extraordinary people
When we arrived, we saw who was running the program: five selfless women, all with grown children who were no longer in elementary school, as well as a few teenagers, who together were feeding almost 200 kids. One of the adult volunteers was in her eighties, standing on her feet (by choice) to serve the juice and milk. There was another woman who kept the breakfast bin-filling – for the children who arrived just in time for school and ate in their classroom – right on schedule, and she always had an amazing group of older Grade 6 volunteers, who came into school early to help. There was even a teenager who was in high school and had attended our school a few years prior – he came to St. Jude as often as he could to help with Breakfast Club before catching his bus to start his busy day at Centennial High School. The program was spearheaded by yet another selfless woman, who had been at the heart of the school for decades. All of these incredible people made it possible for so many kids to start off their days with a healthy, filling breakfast (not to mention the smiles they received as they conversed with the volunteers they had all grown to love).
By getting involved, everyone wins … Especially us!
We were hooked. Even though we were late in the school year (it was April), for three months we went to Breakfast Club every morning. My son gained tremendous confidence getting to know the kids at his school, particularly the older ones he began to befriend, and I loved the hugs and smiles I got every morning as we handed out yogurt, fruit, bagels, eggs, pancakes, and more. This summer, all we talked about was how much we missed Breakfast Club, and we have loved being a part of the group again this school year.
Breakfast Club also got my son excited to give back in other ways by getting involved in different philanthropic activities, such as fundraising for a few causes that are important to him, and signing petitions to help save his favourite animals: sharks! Keep in mind, Cameron is only five years old. It just goes to show that there is no age limit to giving back!
Children helping other children
Breakfast Club is so special to us. It gave us a way to give back to our school, and to feel connected to our student body as well as the teachers and staff. And it sparked something within my son to give to others, to find even small ways to help those in need and become active in our community. And nothing feels better than giving kids a great start to their day.
The other morning a child asked Cameron, “Why are you always working here?” And he replied, “I’m not working. This isn’t work. I’m helping. It’s important to help.” To which the child replied, “Can I help too?” Kids inspiring kids… isn’t that what it’s all about?
Volunteering and families often go hand in hand. Click here to read another touching story!
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A while back, we shared Cameron’s story, a 5-year-old boy who regularly volunteers with his mom. In the article, Cameron’s mom explained how volunteering helped her son gain tremendous confidence.
Caroline Soucy, Breakfast Club of Canada’s Senior Coordinator, is delighted to work alongside these volunteers who rise above their age to further a cause they care deeply about.
One morning, at Bruno-Choquette School’s breakfast program, Caroline was washing dishes with 70-year-old Madame Pauline, a volunteer of 8 years. Madame Pauline was telling her how volunteering and seeing children contributed so much to her well-being.
In Madame Pauline’s words: “They’re polite and say thank you and please. It’s very heartening for us seniors. Yesterday, I was helping a centenarian, and this morning, I’m surrounded by 5-year-olds. It’s quite the contrast!”
Madame Pauline isn’t alone – she also volunteers with Madame Fernande. The two knew each other even before becoming Club volunteers in 2011. Their favourite routine is going out for breakfast together after their shift.
Then there’s Monsieur Roger – he was a new retiree when he started volunteering. He decided to get involved with the Club to fight boredom and feel useful. He’s proud to say that, in all, he hasn’t missed more than 7 days since starting his adventure back in 2004!
Between the three (Madame Pauline, 70, Madame Fernande, 77, and Madame Roger, 84), they have 231 years of experience and 31 as volunteers!
Thank you to these three exceptional volunteers who wake up early in the morning eager to make a daily difference in the lives of our program’s children!
Do you have an inspiring story about the Club that you would like to share?
Write us here! We want to hear from you!
Did you know that, at Du Parc School, a student on the autism spectrum, Zacharie, is part of the breakfast program volunteer crew? Through his involvement, he learns ways to be more self-sufficient, make the most of his potential and experience the satisfaction of a job well done.
Here’s his testimonial:
Hi, my name is Zacharie.
A little over a year ago, I shared my journey as a child living with an autism spectrum disorder.
Do you remember my story? It started when I became part of a breakfast program. I even became a volunteer because I missed my friends so much.
I’m still at the high school and guess what? The program is still part of my life four years later.
I really enjoy volunteering, so much so that the experience leaves me feeling happy for days.
My mom says that I interact well with children and that I’m a great help.
I realize that the program has taught me to become more self-sufficient, not just at school, but also in my day-to-day life since I gained more confidence in my own abilities.
I can now operate my dad’s shovel loader.
I never thought I’d be able to do that before.
I shovel the house steps… without anyone asking!
These may be small things, but for me, they are great accomplishments!
I almost forgot… I even eat white cheddar cheese, cheese curds and white chicken chunks now.
I can’t wait to get back to the program!
A big thank you to Zacharie and his mother for sharing this beautiful testimony!
When she agreed to become the head volunteer for her school’s breakfast program 13 years ago, Linda didn’t have the foggiest notion of the long adventure that lay ahead. At the time, she was a member of the school’s governing board, which is why the principal approached her about taking over the reins of the breakfast program.
In this capacity, Linda supervises a team of volunteers so that breakfast gets served every morning without fail and the program runs smoothly and efficiently.
“Routine is important. So are organization and proper storage. A place for everything and everything in its place!”
She takes her role as head volunteer very seriously. She sees it as an opportunity to give back to the community and to build relationships with other volunteers.
“We actually do things together outside of the school. It’s such a great team!”
If you ask her to describe what makes a good volunteer, Linda will tell you it’s someone who is kind, caring and sensitive enough to “manage” all the kids that come in hungry in the morning.
As Linda explains so well, there are plenty of reasons why parents sign their children up with their school’s breakfast program:
“Lots of parents have to get to work early. With us, their kids can eat breakfast later, take it easy and hang out with their pals!”
Not only is the program a great help for time-crunched moms and dads, but the 149 students who use the service also get the chance to eat together, make friends and enjoy special moments as a group, like when everyone joins in to sing happy birthday to someone.
When asked to describe some of her experiences, Linda shared this with us:
“Three children from the same family were enrolled in the program. When they first started, they weren’t particularly cooperative. They actually had a reputation for being ‘difficult.’ But as the year went on, they started to mellow and their behaviour improved. I’m sure the relationship we built with them helped and had an impact on other aspects of their life, like how they did at school.”
Linda sometimes bumps into her young charges outside of the breakfast program environment – out shopping for groceries, for example: “When they see us volunteers, some kids run over and give us a big hug – to the great surprise of their parents, who don’t necessarily know who we are!”
And Linda is already starting to have an impact on a second generation of grateful kids.
“A couple of times, I’ve served the children of people who used to come to the breakfast program every morning.”
She notices that the number of registrations goes up as the school year progresses.
“There’s no reason to turn any child down. Everyone is welcome!”
For Linda, seeing happy, smiling and well-fed children every morning is definitely one of the most rewarding parts of the whole experience.
Thank you, Linda, for making a difference in the lives of so many youngsters for the past 13 years!
“Mamou Joanne, guess what? It’s my birthday today!”
Behind the counter, the volunteer smiled, turned around to grab a carrot muffin baked specially for the occasion and handed it to the beaming birthday boy, who was tickled pink that Mamou Joanne remembered.
It was just another morning for the grandmother/volunteer but one where she made yet another child feel important.
Mamou Joanne, aka Joanne Morin, has been volunteering with the breakfast program at Lionel-Groulx School for a year now and has been the site coordinator since the start of the school year. Giving back to the community is a long, proud tradition for Joanne and her children. (As you know, volunteering knows no age limit at the Club!) Lionel-Groulx School is actually where the whole Breakfast Club of Canada adventure began 25 years ago. And if anyone is going to celebrate this milestone anniversary, it’s certainly going to be Joanne!
When she talks about her experience as a volunteer, the joy she feels at being a part of school life and the broader community shines through. In addition to her duties at the Club, she is also involved in several other local organizations. Now that’s someone with tons of energy and spirit to burn. Quite the inspiration, our Mamou Joanne!
Before she retired, she worked as a cook, making her the perfect choice for this assignment, which means the world to her. Plus, she lives right across the street from the school, so all she has to do is take a few steps and she’s there to welcome the morning crowd. Her daughter often comes in to help because, after all, the Club is a family affair! By 9 a.m., Joanne goes back to her house for a nap and then gets lunch ready for her grandchildren and a few of their friends, whenever their parents need a helping hand. It’s like a mini-Club right in her kitchen!
Every day, Joanne has a front-row seat to see students’ joyful reactions to getting together before classes begin in the morning. They talk (a lot!) and they laugh (a lot!) as they eat. “It’s such a lovely way to get the day started,” said Joanne. “And it makes life so much easier for parents. They know their kids are getting a good meal and don’t have to rush.”
Mamou Joanne is as much a part of the Lionel-Groulx School team as any of the teaching or support staff. Because she interacts with the kids a little differently, she can sometimes catch problems nobody else can. She can tell when something’s wrong – and she can refer children directly to a staff member as necessary. Joanne is there to listen to them, reassure them, explain things to them and encourage them to look at things from another angle – as only a grandma can. Which is why they all affectionately call her “Mamou.” They can tell that Mamou Joanne is there to watch out for them.
It looks like the old adage has proved true once again: it really does take a village to raise a child. Thank you, Mamou Joanne, for being part of our village!
From coast to coast, in every province and territory, dedicated parents, volunteers, and school staff get up early each morning to make a huge impact in the day of these students by providing them with equal opportunities to succeed. The following stories are just a few of the wonderful testimonials to the power of breakfast programs in the schools. We hope you’ll find these stories as impactful and touching as we do.
Emily, student, James Park Elementary School, British Columbia
Hi, my name’s Emily and I’m a Grade 5 student from British Columbia. My dad actually got me into Breakfast Club because he started volunteering, so I went with him and learned how to do all the cool things that the Breakfast Club needs. Like pouring water, making pizza buns… making all the things on the menu (laughs)! That was three years ago and I still volunteer every day because I love serving the other kids, and now my mom comes also so it’s my dad, my mom, and me, so it’s something fun we do as a family.
Lots of kids come with their families so it makes me really happy to see everyone enjoying the food. I’ve gotten to know a bunch of adults who used to be strangers, and now I also am friends with their kids because of that! Kids are getting to know each other better, and lots more people come to school early now so they can join the program, so it’s really fun. Sometime even the principal and teachers eat with us and that makes us happy. We get to know them in a different way and I’ve learned some things about the adults that I wouldn’t have learned if we just saw each other in class.
School Administrator, Johnny Therriault Memorial School, Aroland First Nation, Ontario
Our Breakfast program is as much about serving nutritious food as it is a social event. Without a doubt, our program improves the mental and psycho-social well-being of our students. From time to time we have new students in an unfamiliar school and community, and they are often very cautious, reluctant, shy and introverted. However, as these students begin to settle in, the breakfast program helps them form new friendships. One specific student who was a Tikinagan child, enrolled in our school in Grade 5. She was extremely shy and hardly spoke. She was very hesitant to participate in the breakfast program, fearful to even enter the gymnasium where the program takes place. After some support and words of encouragement from staff, she slowly started to come into the program, eat with her fellow classmates, smile and socialize. It was wonderful to see her smile, talking and socializing with her classmates after only two weeks of coming to our school.
Stéphanie Riedyk, Breakfast Program Supervisor, École La Mosaïque, Alberta
Our school is multicultural school, where students develop new tastes related to the Canada Food Guide. Parents really value what our program offers their kids. One father told me, “this program is a blessing for modest families like ours, who do not necessarily have the means to offer a complete meal to our children and especially the time necessary to do it early in the morning. We are infinitely grateful to you”. What we really love is when the children come to tell us after each breakfast “Mrs. Stephanie, I really liked this meal. Thank you very much, what are we eating tomorrow?” You can not know how happy I am to see the glowing eyes of these little children happy to have eaten well.
LaSalle Elementary Junior School, Quebec
Conversation with Mrs. Donna, Integration Aid
Donna: I go outside at recess with the kids and there’s this one little child who is always in trouble, never listens, you always hear his name being called to come here, stop that, or get down from there. Since stating breakfast late last year, that’s all stopped. Now he comes in, has his breakfast…he’s the happiest little boy.
Club: What do you think it is about breakfast club that helps him the most? The full belly? The social aspect?
Donna: A bit of both. And just having a calm moment to start the day, the calm music really helps. I am so happy with this child. What a good feeling – and what a good feeling for him.
Conversation Mrs. Julia, Teacher
Julia: I love volunteering at breakfast club because I get to interact with the kids so early in the morning. Some of them come in a bit sad so I make them happy by just talking to them.
Club: How is it different than in the classroom?
Julia: Because it’s one on one here. You’re not their teacher so you can have conversations and joke with them. Some of them just need a little hello to make their day and that’s important to me.
In fact, during the interview, Mrs Julia got to demonstrate this when a student came in and said he had put his tooth under his pillow last night, but the tooth fairy didn’t come. Mrs. Julia made a big deal of his missing tooth, congratulated him on losing it and made him feel special.
Conversation with the kids
Club: What’s your favorite thing you get at breakfast club?
Student: Bagels! When we first went in breakfast club our first day we saw bagels! Its soooooo good! I wish we had bagels everyday! (is tomorrow bagel day?)
Other students: Grilled cheese! We love grilled cheese!
Club: so this must be your favorite day!
Students: yes! It’s the best!
Club: I see there’s a lot of people working very hard to make your favorite breakfast!
Student: I was here this morning and I saw Mrs Donna make all this.
Club: I saw when you came in before you gave Mrs Donna a big hug? She’s special….
Student: I love her she’s my favorite! She used to be in my class last year.
Club: it must be fun that you get to have breakfast with her every day now!