Cindy Simpson, left, and Helma Swinkels, right, from Bibi J’s in Port Alberni make a pair of donations to Sally Anderson for the Read and Feed program. Bibi J’s donated $3,000 while Simpson and her husband made a separate donation of $500. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Cindy Simpson, left, and Helma Swinkels, right, from Bibi J’s in Port Alberni make a pair of donations to Sally Anderson for the Read and Feed program. Bibi J’s donated $3,000 while Simpson and her husband made a separate donation of $500. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Bibi J’s gift shop donates $3,000 to Port Alberni’s school Read and Feed program

Donation is the third in a year for Helma Swinkels’ reimagined gift shop

The Alberni Valley’s read and feed program for elementary schools received a hand up from Bibi J’s this fall.

Helma Swinkels, who owns the profit for non-profit store located in the yellow cottage on Gertrude Street, donated $3,000 to the breakfast program, and employee Cindy Simpson donated a further $500.

Sally Anderson started the Alberni Valley Neighbourlink Society’s Read and Feed program 14 years ago when her grandson was in elementary school, and she noticed that children were coming to school without eating breakfast.

The program has grown over the years and now encompasses six elementary schools in the Alberni Valley: John Howitt, Wood, École Alberni, Tsuma-as, Maquinna and Dunn.

Bibi J’s recently celebrated its first anniversary. Formerly Pot Luck Ceramics, the coronavirus pandemic forced Swinkels to close down Pot Luck and re-open as a different entity. Pot Luck was a fundraising entity largely for Ty Watson House Hospice. Pot Luck usually raised in excess of $10,000 per year for the hospice as well as the Better At Home program for seniors. Swinkels has continued her “profit for non-profit” tradition with Bibi J’s gift shop, and has been able to donate smaller amounts to charities with a different focus.

The Bibi J’s donation is particularly welcomed in this time of the pandemic, Anderson said.

“It means we can continue feeding children for this whole (school year).”

Prior to the pandemic, when schools were serving breakfast every morning, it cost between $3,000 and $4,000 per month. Anderson had an annual budget of $15,000 and was able to stretch it. Right now breakfast items are all pre-packaged (such as granola bars, yogurt tubes or bottles) and volunteers deliver bulk items at the door to the schools—they aren’t allowed to go into the schools.

Pre-pandemic, Anderson had 150 volunteers that would go into the schools and read to students while they were eating breakfast. Now she is down to a core group and “we’re all 75 years or over.”

This donation was the third for Bibi J’s in a year, and the second for Simpson and her husband Gord. The couple decided they would make a $500 donation on top of Bibi J’s $3,000 donation to whatever non-profit organization is chosen.

Charity and DonationsPort Alberni