City Centre Mirror
A donation from RBC will ensure that children in St. James Town have the after-school care they need.
RBC donated $30,000 to St. James Town Family Literacy Services as part of a $2.7 million investment in 105 community-based programs for children and youth across Canada.
The St. James Town funding will go toward a vital after-school program at Rose Avenue Public School for local children from Junior Kindergarten through Grade 3.
“We have about 80 or 85 kids there and it has a healthy living, well-being focus to it,” said Chris Hallett of St. James Town Family Literacy Services, also known as Community Matters Toronto. “There’s a nutrition component, a wellness component and physical activities such as swimming.”
Staff and volunteers also run yoga and meditation sessions, arts and crafts activities and more, while the program also includes dental screenings and other health initiatives.
The much-needed funding is to help ensure children in the area have somewhere to go after school. Because so many families in the area are two-income families, young children often have nowhere to go after school.
“In total, we have 13 staff and volunteers and even though we get the space for free, it takes money to keep things running,” Hallett said.
The funding will also go toward healthy snacks and food for the youngsters.
St. James Town resident Surabhi Khare noted the program has made a big difference both for her family and in the life of her five-year-old son.
She said the program’s emphasis on physical activities and healthy eating have been invaluable for the youngster.
“These are things that are so important for children to know,” she said.
She added that the program’s arts and crafts portion helps children improve their motor skills while bringing children from junior kindergarten through Grade 3 together helps children with socialization.
“My son is learning how to cope with older kids and how to make friends,” she said.
Because Khare works until five or six p.m. most nights, the program lets her know her son will be safe until she is available to pick him up after work.
“It’s very easy because the after-school team gets him right after school is finished and then at 5:30 or 6, I can walk over and go pick him up,” she said.
While St. James Town Family Literacy Services receives some $60,000 a year from the Ministry of Health Promotion, its total annual cost runs close to $100,000. RBC supports the organization and its many initiatives in St. James Town on a consistent basis, but the recent $30,000 donation marked the first time it has given funding specifically toward the after-school program.
That, Hallett said, has helped the organization expand its focus and offer after-school help to more children.
“It’s really enabled us to bump our program up and welcome in children with special needs,” he said. “We’ve been able to blend them in with the regular program.”
Because of the donation, he said, the in-demand program has been able to accommodate more children overall.
Hallett added that the program is particularly necessary in St. James Town.
“There are a lot of newcomers in this community and quite often both parents are working, so children would have little supervision until 6 o’clock at night,” he said.