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Weekly Speaker Program

September 2, 2016: Nancy McPhee, Stephen's Backpacks Society for Children in Need.

David Watson introduced our guest speaker, and noted that our club had participated in work that supported "Stephen's Backpacks" several years ago. Nancy McPhee is Stephen's mother and she told us how Stephen initially got things started.

Stephen was adopted in 2001 and was later determined to be autistic. By 2006, he was asking questions about homeless people and children whose families did not have homes. He declared to his family that they needed to help, and their first project of many was to make 15 backpacks to be distributed through Inn from the Cold.

The family, with help from others, has continued to help the needy and is now a national charity, and recently made 2000 backpacks for Fort McMurray.

Project Hope is for people who have nothing: they may have had to walk away from a home or a residence or a spouse. Home is a place for people in crises, and many do not have this home. There is a shoe place where people can get shoes; and children actually sleep with their shoes because they have never had any before.

Our attitude must be that "We don't even know you, but we care". Stephen has encouraged other children to help with a dream: his mandate is to help others to meet the dreams of others.

Some facts:

  • 40 % of homeless Calgarians are employed.
  • 60,000 rely on the food bank.
  • 14,000 Calgarians are at risk.
  • 34 % of Calgarians know someone who is almost homeless.
  • 97 % of money donated stays in Calgary.

The task is to shine the light where there is darkness. Stephen has written to many, and received a letter from Queen Elizabeth! He continues to receive notes from former premier Ed Stelmach.

Future endeavors:
It is important for people to have homes, and they need time to readjust. We need more affordable homes, but putting people in a house is not enough, they need strong support and also permanence. Project Hope has a goal to find homes for 30-50 families. The government does not provide much funding.

Bryden Horwood expressed the thanks of the club for the work the McPhee family has done to help so many get off the streets, and presented Nancy with a Boltman.

This was the first time I ever remember a guest speaker receiving a standing ovation at Rotary!

  • Bryden Horwood and Nancy McPhee
    Bryden Horwood and Nancy McPhee
  • Nancy McPhee with the RCCW
    Bryden Horwood with the RCCW

reported by Jim Barnes

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