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Thrift shop owner determined to make kids feel included

Kids Care is a passion project for Sherrie Breese

ATHABASCA – When Sherrie Breese and husband Robin opened the Lollypop Thrift Shop in 2016 it was to help kids. 

Now, four years later, Breese has changed her strategy a bit during COVID-19 doing more online auctions until she could fully open up again. The focus remains the same though — to support local children through donations to community groups and fund her own Kids Care program. 

Entering its seventh year, Kids Care is a program where Breese fills school bags with brand new supplies — a lunch kit with containers, a water bottle and some other special surprises. She is using the proceeds, almost $300, from a recent online purse auction, to help fund the project this year. The rest of the money comes from regular purchases by customers throughout the year.

“Each year the need seems to grow, or at least, the use of the program increases. Last year, we spent over $700 locally and built 12 full kits. After a few weeks of school, very little of it was left undistributed. So, this year, we are starting almost from scratch to build the kits again,” Breese said. 

The idea came from a purse, tote and bag company. They issued a challenge to consultants to have people fill lunch kits with school supplies. That experience resonated with Breese when she found out one of the recipients had never had new crayons before. 

“Through the feedback from the first year of bags going out, I learned that a child got their first-ever new box of crayons; it was decided that there will be a second year. Which lead to a third, and a fourth, and so on,” Breese said. 

Breese makes up about a dozen bags for girls and boys attending Whispering Hills Primary School (WHPS) and Landing Trail Intermediate School (LTIS) each year based on their supply list. 

“I take the class lists from the school and I do Grades 1 to 6; a pack for boys and a pack for girls. It’ll say two boxes of Kleenex, but I’ll put in one box … if it says eight scribblers, I might put in four depending on how many I have,” she said. 

It is enough to get the student started and to not feel left out and vulnerable to bullying.  

“It’s a sad situation if you end up at school and you don’t have anything,” Breese said. 

Breese will accept donations of school supplies and if they do not make the cut for her high standards, they will either be sold at the shop or donated to the Centre for Alternative and Virtual Education (CAVE). 

“Everything in the bag and the bag itself is all brand new. There is no settling for, or good enough. The children that benefit from these bags, my hope for them is that they recognize that to someone they are important and they deserve good, new supplies to start their year,” said Breese. 

Heather Stocking,
Follow me on Twitter @HLSox