ST. STEPHEN – If you have driven along Union Street in St. Stephen, chances are you caught sight of the ladybug toilets and Minion pressure tanks behind Briggs Plumbing. Initially, Ian Briggs said the toilets and tanks were extras the store had, and he thought something fun could be done with them. Becky Johnson, who also works at Briggs, had the idea of the Minions, and Briggs conceived the ladybugs. Then, staff decided to auction the unique items through the Briggs Plumbing Facebook page, and the money raised is being donated to the We’ve Got Your Back Foundation to help ensure kids who take advantage of the school breakfast and lunch programs have enough to eat on weekends while they are not in school.
“We never dreamt we’d get the response we did,” said Johnson.
Briggs said he was thrilled to see so many generous people who wanted to help by bidding on the toilets and pressure tanks. He said it was advertised the money would go to charity, but initially it was not announced which charity they would be donating it to.
“At that point, we hadn’t named the local charity,” said Briggs. “But, we knew from the beginning that we were donating to the backpack program. We did it with the money from the lamp post competition. At that time, I remember you guys (We’ve Got Your Back) saying nobody ever had given any money to you guys. You were never chosen as the charity to be given to. With kids going back to school, I thought it would be good timing, a little piece of something to help them.”
Johnson said the auction managed to raise just under $300, and then the company added to the total in order to be able to make a $500 donation to the We’ve Got Your Back Foundation. Briggs said he likes the ethos behind the charity, and that somebody is ensuring no child goes hungry.
“As sad as it is, that that’s necessary, but I thought isn’t it nice that somebody is doing something for these kids,” said Briggs.
Blair Colby, board member of the We’ve Got Your Back Foundation, said the number of people in Charlotte County who suffer from food insecurity is “shocking”. He said there are some “pretty drastic numbers” in this area, and it is important they are able to help those students who need it. The foundation also offers a summer program where backpacks are delivered by volunteers (comprised of board members and 26 teachers and EA’s) every two weeks. This year, the group had 46 students on their list, down from 73 last summer.
“A lot of that is, we’ve lost touch,” said Colby. “We depend on the schools to keep us in touch with the kids. A lot of parents chose to homeschool kids, or they just didn’t go to school last year. As a result, they fell through the cracks. We’re expecting the numbers to get back to that 50 to 60 every week come September.”
The We’ve Got Your Back Foundation also has a sponsor-a-child program. For just $40 per month, you can sponsor a child to ensure they have food to eat on the weekends. Colby said the $40 “pretty much covers a backpack”. Currently, there are 10 sponsors, and the goal is to have 50 more, which would cover the day-to-day costs.
“Essentially, it’s enough food to carry a kid through the weekend, granola bars, juice boxes, often a box of cereal,” said Colby. “When we’re on a weekly schedule, we put a gallon or half gallon of milk in there. Through the week they have the school programs. It’s an unspoken partnership that we have with all of the other service groups that are doing good work feeding kids.”
Briggs said he and his staff appreciate all of the people who contributed to the auction. He realizes the items auctioned off weren’t big-ticket items, but people still wanted to help, which he truly appreciates. He said many people actually gave more than the amounts pledged, just to help out. Blair is just as appreciative of the donations.
“We’re incredibly grateful for both Briggs and those who donated.”