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Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday children in Regina head to the Albert Scott Memorial Centre for a meal served up by Theresa Stevenson and her small army of helpers.
"We average about 137 children for each meal with 170 being our record, "Theresa says. "We find at the end of the month more children come in because that is the time when families are out of money."
The program began about four years ago when a Principal it the Cathedral area called City Hall because he was concerned about the number of children who didn't go home for lunch.
Theresa's son Wes Stevenson worked at City Hall as the director of special programs and he spoke to her about the problem.
"We had lived in the states for about fifteen years where they had a school lunch program," Theresa said. "We were surprised when we returned that there were no such program in Regina."
"My husband and I decided to try and do something for the children but we were turned down by the Provincial Government so we began the lunch program with volunteers."
"I turned to the community for help and went to service clubs and churches." "We spoke to groups and explained the situation." "We would do anything to increase awareness."
"I would crawl if I had to."
The program struggled on for a couple more years and last fall it looked pretty bleak. That's when the community got involved.
Joan Beatty, an Indian reporter for CBC did a story on the program and the message got out. Regina Mayor Doug Archer declared the week of December 12, "Chili for Children week." The police got involved and assisted in a school competition that brought in over two tons of food. Balfour High School won the prize for collecting the most food.
During Chili for Children week, service clubs such as the Kinsmen and Rotary pitched in and served lunch. They were assisted by dignataries such as the Mayor, FSIN Chief Roland Crowe, members of parliment and Arch Bishop Haplin.
Corporal Bob Bray of the Regina City Police
and Reverend Arthur Anderson assist Theresa with the serving
Lisa Lavallee is one of the part-time helpers
At noon the children pour in the door, a quick stop to register and they line up for their lunch. There are two types of soups available, Theresa's famous chili, milk, desert and bannock.
The crowd is mixed but the majority are Indian and Metis.
Adults can also drop by for lunch. $1.00 is charged for those who can afford it. A bowl sits by the registration desk and some of the children contribute.
"We are in an ideal location," Theresa says, "within a six block radius there are five schools."
Not all the children are poor, in some families both parents are working and there is nobody at home to make lunch.
Since the program has started the teachers have noticed a change in the students and their performance has improved. "The teachers are noticing that the students are more alert in the afternoon," Theresa said.
Corporal Bob Bray from the Regina City Police says that through their involvement is the program they can reach out to the children and gain their confidence.
"We hope that they see us as individuals and not just the uniform and see that we are out there to help," he says.
For the time being the program is surviving but next fall Theresa will start all over again. If you want to donate food or money call Theresa at the Regina Community Awareness Program at 359-7919.