(Abbotsford, BC) - Unitex Sales Ltd., an Abbotsford based provider of corporate marketing materials and uniforms, has announced a major donation to the Abbotsford Food Bank and the Rotary Club of Abbotsford in support of the Starfish Pack Program.


Unitex Sales has been the sole supplier of the backpacks used by the program to provide elementary students in need with weekly food packages; containing two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and snacks each weekend.  The backpacks provide basic nutritional support each weekend to local children who depend on in-school breakfast and lunch programs.  Unitex Sales has been providing the backpacks to the program club at cost, as the program has risen to 195 children in thirteen local elementary schools receiving backpacks.

On Tuesday, October 14th, Unitex President, Bob Johnson announced his company will be donating 221 new backpacks to the program, a donation in excess of $5,500, supporting the program’s rebranding under the name Starfish Packs.

“I grew up dirt poor”, said Johnson. “I know first-hand what a big difference just a little bit of help can make for a family struggling to get by”, he goes on to say, “I’m very pleased by the efforts of the Rotary Club of Abbotsford to take on a leadership role to make this program happen.”

Abbotsford Rotary Club President, Hugh Ellis said “the donation will allow the club to continue to flow 100% of all cash donations towards the purchase of food for local kids, Bob’s amazing gift is going to allow us to feed students in need at another new school.” 

Groceries for the program cost $525 for each child during a normal school year.  Local grocery stores such as Cooper’s Food and Save-On Whatcom Road are providing weekly grocery items at cost, significantly increasing the number of kids being fed.

Community donations have allowed the program to dramatically expand in its first year. Local church groups, including Hill City Church, Northview Community Church, Ross Road Community Church and Gateway Church have donated both dollars and volunteers to shop, pack, and deliver backpacks every week.   

A local construction company, First Choice Transformations, donated 100% of the funds needed to cover a local school and then also provided weekly volunteers from family and friends to do the shopping and packing. 

“We have over 100 local community volunteers who give of their time and their money every month to collect the food, pack it and put it in the hands of kids in need every week” says Ellis.  “These are the hands and feet of the program; without these committed local residents, we simply could not deliver the program,” he said.

Dave Murray, Executive Director of the Abbotsford Food Bank says, “community support for this program is unprecedented in Abbotsford, last year, 36 local businesses, local churches and many, many individuals came together to raise over $100,000 for the program”. Murray goes on to say “kids going hungry for days at a time touched people in Abbotsford in a very real way.  It’s still hard to believe in the largest farmgate community in all of Canada that we have hundreds of kids regularly going without food for days at a time.”

Yet for all the funds and volunteers supporting the program, hundreds of local kids are still not being served.  Estimates put the number of children in need of the program at approximately 400.  While donations like Unitex Sales Ltd. make a significant difference, much more is needed.  “We have the funds and volunteers to help about half of the kids who need it.  For every child we’re making a difference for with this program, there’s another one we don’t have the resources to help yet’, say Ellis.  

Johnson is challenging other business owners to make similar contributions to the program.  “Abbotsford needs to work together to make a difference in the lives of our kids.  We can’t expect some level of government or social agency do it by themselves”, said Johnson.

Information on the Starfish Pack Program can be found on the ROTARY CLUB of ABBOTSFORD website at www.abbotsfordrotary.com. Donations can be made via the ABBY NEWS CROWSOURCING website at (http://www.abbynews.com/4Good) or the ABBOTSFORD FOOD BANK website at (http://www.abbotsfordfoodbank.com/programs/backpack_program).