In 2003 an observant school counsellor noticed a young girl in tears one morning before the first bell at Erickson Elementary School. The young student had not eaten breakfast and had a daily commute from home via a school bus ride of almost an hour.
The youth and family counsellor Marje Bridgman set out to find a solution to a recurring problem, children arriving at school hungry.
In the past, individual teachers and staff would often bring food items from home or receive donations from a local bakery to give to hungry children.
This was not enough to satisfy Marje, she set out to find a more permanent and consistent solution to a well-recognized need. Marje Bridgman learned of an offer of financial aid in Canadian Living magazine, but the grant for school breakfast programs was contingent on finding volunteers from outside the school to be involved.
Marje talked with Bill her husband and member of the Creston Valley Rotary Club, who shared this with his club and the rest is history.
Bill passed away in 2007, and Marje has long retired from the school district, but their legacy continues to this day in the unique partnership between Erickson Elementary School and the Creston Valley Rotary Club.
Walt Reider, President of the club in 2003, now recalls when Bill presented the opportunity.
“It was an absolute no-brainer for our club and as president, I ensured we jumped on board 100 per cent from the beginning,” said Reider. Walt still shows up every Monday morning to serve the hot grilled cheese sandwiches with another original volunteer, Al Garrecht.
From the very beginning, breakfast was available and open to every student, and no one had to prove they were hungry or with special needs it has always been free.
Conservative estimates are that Creston Valley Rotary Club has served over 140,000 individual breakfasts to children since Marje and Bill Bridgman began this unique combination of school and community service by Rotary.
Members of Creston Valley Rotary Club have staffed the breakfast program continuously over the past 15-16 years, and today, there are about 20 active volunteers, made up of Rotary members, family and friends who serve breakfast every day the children are in school.