There were big decisions to be made when 45 members of a new charity, 100 Kids Who Care Pictou County, met last weekend at West Side Community Centre.
Each child who registered with the group, as well as a few who walked in at the last minute, listened to three children explain why they thought Viola’s Place Society, The Pictou County Fuel Fund and the burn unit in the Queen Elizabeth II hospital would be the best choices for their hard-earned $10 donations.
Many of the children had already nominated the charity of their choice which resulted in about 30 organizations being names. Three were randomly selected and children who nominated them were asked in advance to prepare a short presentation. They shared their information with the group and the children voted to donate $350 to one charity and $50 to the other two.
Will Cullen, 8, pointed out homeless people need a place to be warm and safe, especially with winter coming on. He talked about the need for protection, a bed, a blanket, food and a little candy.
“I think people like to be warm and dry in a nice place where people can look after them,” he said.
Lauren Campbell, 10, was also thinking about the needs that arise from winter weather when she suggested the children give their money to the Pictou County Fuel Fund.
“A lot of people don’t have enough wood or oil to heat their homes in winter so they might be cold if they don’t get some help from us,” she said.
Callie Mullins, 6, explained that nurses in the burn unit work really hard to try to help people be well again.
“When people need a lot of help the nurses are nice to them and take care of them. I know that because my aunt is in the unit, and she is going to be with them for a while longer.”
The whole meeting process took about 35 minutes, including collecting the cash and dividing it among envelopes to be delivered to each charity, and children and parents went happily on their way.
Organizers Courtney Comeau and Michelle Mullins, both of whom volunteer with school, sports and the community, hoped children would see that a willingness to help and teamwork can accomplish big goals. They could not have been happier with how it all worked out.
“It was simple and straightforward, and social media did most of the work for us,” said Comeau, who came up with the idea after hearing about a similar group in Truro.
She pointed out parents act as support but it is up to the children to present, vote and make the donations.
Mullins, who is on the board of the community centre, was amazed by the enthusiasm of the children.
“It was much less work than a lot of things I’ve been involved in and I’m amazed at how the kids really enjoyed the way it worked and how quickly it was done,” she said.
They plan to have three events a year with the next one scheduled for February. As with the first event, children will be asked to raise the $10 donations by doing chores.
“If each child who came brings one friend to the next session I’m sure we’ll get to 100 children because there are people who are just hearing about us after the fact.”
Karen MacPhee and Brian Bowden, president and vice-president of Viola’s Place Society which is in the process of buying a building to operate a shelter, were deeply touched by the donations.
“It is tremendously encouraging for us. If the children know about us and understand the need, then the parents and the public will as well. This demonstrates the importance of many people making small donations to get things done,” said MacPhee.
Bowden said it is one of the most heart-warming donations he is aware of.
“People think it is hard to engage youth and sometimes it is but look what this little group of children has accomplished,” he said.
It is too early to know when the shelter will open but when it does Bowden said the children will be able to point to it and say they helped make it happen.
Comeau views the group as a way to promote charity and citizenship.
“We thought it would give children a sense of community in a way that is appropriate for their ages and we’re certainly seeing that,” said Comeau.
When Callie’s uncle heard about the donation she would be making, he immediately matched it. Because the nurses in the unit could not accept a cash donation, Callie and her brother, Jacob, went shopping and brought back treats for staff, patients and families.
A few children who were unable to make the first meeting insisted on making their $10 donations so that money is headed to the Pictou County Food Bank.