The Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) has been gifted dozens of backpacks stuffed with school supplies by a family visiting the community.
"It's great to see that this was a family that comes from a variety of places in the United States, so they have no ties to Whistler other than they happened to be hosting their family reunion here. Every time they go somewhere, they give back in some way," explained Whistler Food Bank coordinator Sara Jennings. "It's great to see that community is on people's minds even if it's not their community."
This is the second time the Raskas family has donated to a local charity in the community that plays host to their family reunion. Two years ago, they actually gave back to another famous ski town, Vail, Colo., where they built bikes to donate to underprivileged children.
This year, the Raskas approached WCSS asking how they could help, and, with the school year fast approaching, Jennings thought the time was right to give local families a leg up on school supplies.
"We've thought about doing something around school supplies for a while, we've just never had any time to put something into place," Jennings said, noting how WCSS has been focused on its recent move to its new Nesters Road facility. "This was a great start-up and we'll see what interest it gathers during this run and see if it's something that families would like to see more of."
The Raskas family paid for and donated 48 backpacks that they spent an afternoon filling themselves with school supplies and snacks. The bags are divided into two categories: Ones for students in kindergarten to Grade 3, and ones for Grades 4 and up. The backpacks are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
In all, the family donated over $2,000 worth of goods, said Mordechai Raskas. The family also credited staff at the Four Seasons for picking up the school supplies, as the family was pressed for time during their trip.
Reached by phone, Mordechai explained why the family wanted to give back to a community they had never visited prior to the reunion.
"We're a traditional Jewish family and certainly there's a huge component of Judaism that focuses on charity, or what we in Hebrew call
tzedakah, so it's part of our ethos from a religious perspective," he said. "Related to that is also the fact that my parents—I'm the youngest of five siblings—Heschel and Adina, are certainly very giving people, and we thought this was a good way to honour them and thank them for being able to take our family on these types of trips and reflect the values they've instilled in us."
Twenty-six members of the Raskas family—all children and grandchildren of Heschel and Adina—attended the reunion.
"Particularly for me as a father of two young children, it was important that, as we were taking this kind of vacation and were blessed to be able to do something like this, that it's important to keep in mind that not everybody can take these types of trips," Mordechai added. "It was modelling the type of behaviour I want my children to embody as they grow older."
The bags are available for pickup from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays at the WCSS building, located at 8000 Nesters Rd. Call 604-932-0113 in advance to check if there are backpacks still available.