Beurling Academy & Lakeside Academy Help Ukrainian Refugees

by Dan Mullins

On March 25th, a small school bus made its way from Beurling and Lakeside Academies to the Ukrainian Catholic church on 10th Avenue in Montreal. The bus was full of supplies for Ukrainian refugees who were displaced by the war.

Communities came together to support people in need during a time of crisis. Students, administrators, teachers, staff, parents, a Member of the National Assembly, the broader community, and one very generous owner of a transportation company pitched in to help the refugees who suddenly found themselves with nothing.

Jane Preston, Vice-Principal at Beurling Academy, had been listening to the news during March Break and felt that she and her school should help. The school is named after George “Buzz” Beurling, who came from Verdun and was Canada’s most successful fighter pilot during World War II.

Preston’s husband David Preston, a teacher at Lakeside Academy, also set up a donation collection at his school. The initiative grew much larger than anyone had expected. Word went out through social media, word of mouth as well as through the Community Learning Centre (CLC) network. Grade 9 Leadership students had been planning to sell frozen yogurt from TCBY to raise money for another initiative but felt moved to donate all the proceeds to help the Ukrainian refugees.
Supplies were collected at Beurling and at Lakeside throughout the month of March, with staff volunteering to stay after hours so that community members would be able to drop donations off. The community responded with an enormous amount of supplies, including toiletries, clothing, medical supplies, and non-perishable food items. They also solicited monetary donations for the Canadian Red Cross’ Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal.

Monique from Autobus Beaconsfield, drove the bus from Lachine to Verdun and to Rosemont. The company is a carrier for the LBPSB but volunteered their services to make the haul. Autobus Beaconsfield owner Andrew Jones, who attended the LBPSB, said he was happy to contribute: “My grandmother is Dutch, and was liberated by the Van Doos,” he said, referring to the nickname of the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Army. “It’s just very important to be there for each other.”
Stehanie Gervasi, the Community Development Agent who oversees the Verdun Community Learning Centre helped spread the word about the drive for donations through several partner organizations. “I’m so proud of my school and community,” said Gervasi, “we have families that have their own struggles that have still shown up with donations. The Verdun community is filled with amazing people.”
Isabelle Melançon, the Member of the National Assembly for Verdun, also supported the drive, sharing information and later offering a word of thanks to the borough’s citizens via Facebook. She wrote “A big thank you to all the citizens who participated in our Ukraine donation drive, to my office team who rounded it out with some purchases, and to Jane Preston, Beurling Academy’s Assistant Principal for the initiative!”
Reflecting on the initiative, Preston said “I think it’s a good teaching tool for the students to understand that we need to think beyond just our school community and our city community,” she said.