‘Take care of each other.’

This has been the long-time motto at Gateway Middle School in Meadow Lake and a message that shone as bright as ever last week when the school and the Knights of Columbus came together to provide students with a traditional Christmas meal complete with all the trimmings.

“The Knights of Columbus Charitable Foundation has what is called a Food for Families program,” explained Chris Bencharski of the Knights of Columbus. “This program is used to fund things like school lunch programs, organizations like the Door of Hope and so on. As a foundation board member, I was able to help secure some money for Gateway’s lunch program – $1,500 that helped cover today’s (Dec. 15) meal.”

According to Gateway principal Greg Ackerman, the grant from the Knights of Columbus funded the majority of last week’s meal.

“There’s another grant program we used to fund the rest of it,” Ackerman said.

The food itself was catered by City Convenience, while volunteers from the Knights of Columbus were on hand to serve the students their meals. In total, about 160 meals were distributed.

“Unfortunately, not everyone is going to have the opportunity to have a really good Christmas dinner,” Bencharski said. “Not everybody is as fortunate as we are, and, for some of these kids, this could be the best meal they get during the Christmas season.”

Ackerman meanwhile, said Gateway has provided a Christmas meal to its students almost every year since the school first opened.

“It’s a fairly expensive meal, especially with food costs going up,” he noted. “Without the Knights of Columbus’ help and the nutrition grant we received, it would have been difficult to offer the dinner this year. We really appreciate the Knights of Columbus, their generosity and for thinking about our school and our students.”

Ackerman also reiterated Bencharski’s point about not everyone having access to a good meal at Christmastime.

“We try to support our families the best we can, always,” he said. “This is one way we can ensure every student gets a Christmas dinner. This all falls into our motto of ‘take care of each other’, and we want to take care of our students the best we can.”

Both Ackerman and Bencharski agreed the meal is also a school experience all students will remember for years to come.

“They may not remember the math lessons and other things, but they’ll remember this,” Bencharski said.

Ackerman concurred.

“It helps create that feeling of caring and belonging in the school,” he said. “A welcoming school environment is number one for us because that sets the stage for learning. If students have good nutrition, great learning can happen.”

Bencharski, meanwhile, said the Knights of Columbus grant is one that can be applied for every year, adding he plans to make sure Gateway continues to receive funding to maintain the Christmas dinner tradition at the school.

“Chris taught in schools for many years, so he knows what something like this means to our school and to our kids,” Ackerman said. “We really appreciate him going the extra mile to secure the grant for our school. Hopefully we can continue to do this each and every year.”

by Phil Ambroziak