Meeting in the middle: Both faith and action are necessary
In my initial letter to the editor, lauding the weekly Faith Lift column by Pastor Rob Weatherby, I stated we are living in an epoch where fear has shrouded the world due to the pandemic, and strongly proclaimed—erroneously— that the only antidote was faith. Professor Alan W. Bown, B.Sc., PhD., responded twice that action versus passive faith is the better solution. Please consider this a mea culpa: I am in full agreement with him that individual action is the most effective antidote to fear in a person.
But pandemic by definition implies worldwide, and thus it is the collective fear I was addressing, and which causes me consternation in these abnormal times. Humanity as opposed to the individual.
Coronavirus is real and it has been deadly, especially for older people and those with serious illnesses, and I wish not to downplay the risks associated with the virus. But the other cost to be measured is the impact of the economic and social/psychological lockdowns.
So at this time, in the context of shutdowns, lockdowns, limited gatherings, and where immediate social action is being thwarted, I find myself reexamining intangible faith as a purposeful, positive mindset—for the individual and society—whether it be denominational or not. Thus, I am in disagreement with the professor that solely action is the most effective antidote to reduce fear in mankind. Rather, I find myself searching for a more powerful, existential combination of both action and faith.
Names Matter is back in action—and looking for input
Our group, Names Matter, has been re-established. We will try again and ask the District School Board of Niagara to review the name change from E. W. Farr Memorial School to Wellington Heights. We would particularly welcome parents of students who are now attending the school, as we understand that the board would rather have their input. What would be really wonderful would be to have students join us also. Please, let us know if you are interested. (289) 820-7004 or (905) 892 2549, or email [email protected]
COMMENTARY | Don Rickers
Online teachers: Here’s your first question of the day
Even in a pandemic, as the health of our economy, relationships, and mental stability degrade, we remind ourselves that kids are adaptable, resilient. For the most part, it’s true. Five-year-olds will come to view their limited social bubble and online learning as completely normal.
But normal varies. Some students have a quiet bedroom or home office with their own personal computer, a reliable internet connection, and nutritious snacks at the ready. If a parent is in proximity to assist with online schoolwork, all the better. We can make this work, say sleep-deprived and technology-challenged adults.
Other students scramble out of bed in the morning without being roused from their sleep by an attentive parent. Perhaps Mom is a single parent, and just finished the night shift. Maybe Dad has to be out the door by 7 AM for the 80-minute commute across the lake. In some cases, no adult is home at all to remind the child to hit the “mute” button as the day’s lessons commence.
When schools closed last spring, local boards of education put forward a great effort to ensure that all families would have access to a decent computer and wifi connection so that their children could participate in remote learning. No student left behind, and all that. But it was an imperfect solution. Sharing a computer with siblings, boredom, and the lack of a vigilant teacher present in the room combined to make the experience pedagogically unfulfilling.
The cold, hard reality is that when kids lack the essentials, don’t expect them to thrive in the classroom—either in-person or online. And it starts at a much more basic level than Chromebooks and internet connections.
The cold, hard reality is that when kids lack the essentials, don’t expect them to thrive in the classroom—either in-person or online
Often overlooked is good nutrition. Kids need to fuel their brains and bodies. Educators who regularly see children come to school hungry describe a long list of associated effects, including an inability to concentrate, a lack of motivation, behavioral problems, illness, and poor academic performance.
It’s a solvable problem, of course.
Niagara Nutrition Partners (NNP), founded in 1998, is affiliated with the Community Cares network in St. Catharines and Thorold. Program Manager Jessica Stephenson said that prior to the pandemic, the group fed 17,000 students breakfast, lunch, and nutritious snacks at 180 schools throughout the region each weekday.
Just consider the gravity of that figure for a moment. 17,000 youngsters—here in Niagara—who didn’t have breakfast, or have the time, energy, or food in the fridge to pack a lunch, or have no lunch money.
“Some have to catch an early bus, and don’t have time for breakfast. Others are suffering from unfortunate socio-economic conditions. We don’t discriminate,” said Stephenson.
NNP is limited these days with safety protocols in place, and can only offer “grab-and-go” snacks like fruit and granola bars in classrooms. Outside of the school, in the community, NNP runs a grocery gift card program, which makes food available to families in need, based on referrals from teachers and principals.
Sadly, some of Niagara Nutritional Partners’ signature fundraisers have been cancelled due to COVID-19. They are feeling the financial pinch, and looking for community support.
So…a simple request of online teachers in Niagara.
Before you commence your Zoom lessons each morning, ask all the children on your screen how many have had breakfast. A bowl of cereal with milk, or peanut butter on toast with a glass of orange juice. Explain some nutritional basics, and stress the importance of starting the day with quality food in their stomachs. Tell them that junk food doesn’t work the same…it’s okay for an occasional treat, but don’t expect products laced with salt and sugar to provide energy throughout the day.
Convince them that a good breakfast makes a difference. Because it does. ◆
Don Rickers’ career in education spanned some three decades, with stints as a teacher, student recruiter, coach, boarding school housemaster, enrollment management director, and headmaster. He has visited hundreds of schools around the globe, and served for nearly ten years on the governing committee of the Association of Boarding Schools, based in Washington, DC.
PELHAM AND COVID 19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin
A new beginning for an old trail, a sad goodbye to an old friend
I had the pleasure Friday afternoon, along with several other officials, of re-opening the Steve Bauer Trail, where it picks up on the south side of Port Robinson Road. This section has been closed while a contractor has been busy paving it. Wow! What a job! Of course being on an old railway bed, it is as straight as an arrow, and now after paving it is as smooth as the proverbial baby’s behind! Although this trail has always been heavily used, being paved makes it a very attractive exercise alternative for those with accessibility issues. If COVID-19 numbers continue to climb, there is a distinct possibility that the Town will have to close the community centre’s walking track again. If this happens, this trail will offer all walkers looking for a smooth surface an excellent walking experience. This paving project came to completion mainly due to two groups of people. Firstly, a big thank you to those Town staff members who are continually searching government websites for grant money. A $75,000 grant from the Ontario Municipal Community Cycling Agency was procured by Town staff, and the trail project approved by council in July. And secondly, a sincere thank you to the Pelham Active Transportation Committee, for proposing this project to council. This committee is forever searching for ways in which council can make ours an even more walkable community, and they hit a home run with this suggestion! The other grant the Town received for the project was from the Canada Summer Games, to be used for a legacy project. The amount of this grant was $21,250.
The Fonthill Legion will be cooking up Thanksgiving dinners for seniors this Saturday, Oct. 10. President Toni McKelvie has informed me that she will be cooking over 200 lbs of turkey for this event. Seniors are encouraged to phone (905) 892-6293 to sign up for this meal, which will be delivered.
On Oct. 15, the Legion will restart their seniors dinner programme, which ran in the late spring and early summer of this year. When this programme was ended, the Legion had cooked and delivered some 7,200 meals. A heartfelt thank you to all the caring members at the ol’ 613.
I will end on a sad note this week, having learned of the passing and tragic death of a good friend, Earl Clapp. Earl owned Niagara Farm Metals, and over the years I had the pleasure of doing business with Earl and purchasing his products for various building projects. It was during these transactions that Earl conveyed to me his love of the open road that could only truly be enjoyed while riding his motorcycle. He once took me into his garage and showed me a map of North America, covered in pins. Each pin marked a location that he and his cycling buddies had visited. This old farm boy, tied down to the farm by a demanding herd of Holsteins, could only look at this map with awe. So many adventures! So many stories! Earl was a top-shelf individual, and an honourable man. R.I.P. Earl. My sincere condolences to his wife Tillie and to all other members of his family…He will be missed. ◆