Airdrie-based charity could soon be homeless
Executive director of Stephen's Bckpack Society asks community for help
A local charity with the goal of helping homeless children will soon be homeless.
Stephen’s Backpacks Society must move out of its home of the past three years on April 1 and Executive Director Nancy McPhee is asking the community for help.
“This is all about a boy trying to make a difference to the homeless and now we are homeless ourselves,” she said. “We are really hoping someone can help us out with space. You never know who is out there.”
Stephen’s Backpacks was created in 2006 when then five-year-old Stephen McPhee told his parents that he wanted to put an end to homelessness for children.
In the same year, the family put together 15 backpacks full of winter clothing, hygiene items and school supplies in their home to give to children in need. Last Christmas, the Society made and distributed more than 3,000 backpacks with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
In 2008, the organization expanded to include the Footprints Campaign to collect shoes for children who can’t afford an indoor and outdoor pair for school. In 2012, the charity partnered with local Starbucks stores and collected more than 2,000 pairs of shoes.
Also in 2008, the group started working to purchase food, clothes, furniture and other items for families in need in Calgary and Airdrie with the Project Hope campaign. The campaign has helped 21 families.
For the past three years, a local builder has donated a 1,500-square-foot space in the Kings Heights area to the charity but with the economy ramping up, the company needs the space back.
“We want to thank the investor from the bottom of our hearts,” said McPhee.
“This is in no way a bad reflection on them. They have been so good to us and we are so grateful. We want to thank them from the bottom of our hearts. Who else would donate a $47,000 worth of space for three years?”
McPhee said the group can’t afford to pay for warehouse space as 97 cents from every dollar donated to the charity goes directly to children and families in need.
“We want people to know that all of the money they are donating is going to help the kids and not to overhead and administration,” she added.
The charity is currently housing about $37,000 worth of furniture donated by McArthur Fine Furniture in the bay in Kings Heights.
The furniture was meant for Project Hope and would have helped four Airdrie families. The charity planned to set up the home for the first family in May but that will not be possible if it does not find space.
“If we do not get a space to put the furniture, we will have to give it to Inn From The Cold and they will use it for families in Calgary,” said McPhee.
“We would rather help families in Stephen’s hometown in Airdrie if we can.”
McPhee said she is frustrated because she was planning many new initiatives this year that will not become a reality without donated space.
“Miss Teen Alberta was going to help us with Project Hope and we were going to do a float for the Canada Day Parade and we are not sure what will happen with our barbecue fundraiser we do each summer,” she said. “We were hoping to be able to do even more for the community but this has been a major setback.”
McPhee said the group was hoping to get more children involved in assembling backpacks.
“Hundreds of kids come together and help out and our focus for the next year was going to be to continue to educate them on giving back to their community and get them to think beyond themselves.”
McPhee said if the Society had a permanent home, volunteers would have space to fix donated furniture, sew quilts, assemble backpacks all year round and organize emergency response donations, similar to the one it organized during the Slave Lake fires in May of 2011.
However, McPhee wanted to let residents know, the society will continue to collect and assemble backpacks for those in need.
“Airdrie can rest assured that we will continue doing backpacks even if it is from our house,” she said.
To contact McPhee, call 403-852-9308.