Students at Cloud River Academy won’t have to go without the most important meal of the day.
It’s all thanks to the efforts of a generous man from the Corner Brook area.
Since September 2017, Al Whalen has been driving from his home in Gillam’s all the way to Roddickton-Bide Arm on the Great Northern Peninsula to deliver breakfast food to the children at the local school.
“I’m retired, I got seven kids, seven beautiful grandkids, a full life, my wife passed away a year and a half ago – I got nothing but time on my hands,” he said.
Whalen made three deliveries during the last school year and, so far for 2018-19, he has delivered three loads of food, with the help of the Knights of Columbus in Corner Brook.
He made his most recent delivery on April 11. At the time, the Knights of Columbus, of which Whalen is a member, adopted Cloud River Academy as one of its schools to continue supporting.
A presentation was held at the gymnasium where Whalen and the Knights of Columbus presented the school with some 20 boxes of food, including Easter snacks for each grade, as well as bread, jam and margarine for breakfast meals.
They also delivered three boxes of turkey dinners for Easter for three lower-income families in the community.
The fact that Whalen makes such a generous donation of time, effort and resources to a school so far away from his hometown may come as a surprise.
But Whalen has been drawn to Roddickton-Bide Arm.
His daughter, Natalie Whalen, is a teacher at the school and she, in fact, runs its breakfast program.
He visits often because he loves the area.
He says the Knights of Columbus were looking at communities that needed support and Roddickton-Bide Arm came up.
Whalen was aware that the roof had collapsed at the Roddickton-Bide Arm Foodland in 2015 and the town no longer had a full grocery store.
He was also concerned about the price of food.
He points out that a bottle of orange juice in Roddickton-Bide Arm was $3.49, while in Corner Brook it is just $0.89.
For these reasons, he knew the school needed support for its Kids Eat Smart breakfast program.
Whalen, a regular volunteer, was more than glad to help out.
He collects food donations from local businesses – including, he says, all the grocery stores in Corner Brook – as well as neighbours. He sometimes contributes a donation of his own.
The food costs about $3,000 per year.
“There’s a lot of people out there that want to give, but they have no one channeling where to give and how,” he said. “And as soon as I mentioned a school in need, they all got on board.”
He then drives over 400 km to Roddickton-Bide Arm to deliver the food, which has also included cereal, juice, fruits, cheese crackers, cheese strings and other items.
Whalen does it because children, he says, are “the most important thing in the world.”
“We have to take care of our kids,” he said.
He will be returning in June, to bring more breakfast food as well as food for the school’s year-end barbecue.