© Scott Anderson
Osten Poh, 9, is promoting a fundraising initiative to help provide dairy products though the Swift Current Food Bank.
Osten Poh is spending part of his summer driving an initiative to provide dairy products through the Food Bank in Swift Current.
The inspired nine-year-old is aiming to generate an estimated $30,000 to ensure a two-year supply of milk, cheese and butter can be provided through the Salvation Army Food Bank.
Poh, who will be entering Grade 5 at Swift Current's Ecole Oman School this fall, is not shying away from his idea to help those less fortunate in Swift Current through his idea called The Dairy Department.
"It was a year, year and a half ago, I wanted to help other people. And my mom and dad were trying to get it started, but we didn't know who to contact," the youngster said, noting his idea began when he was disappointed to know there were people without enough money to buy food right in the community.
Osten, along with his parents Ramie and Shawn Poh, contacted the Salvation Army and met with Lorraine Jansen-Unrau, the Family Services/Foodbank, and Captain Michael Ramsay, to explore options n how best to help people.
"Osten's original idea started with he had the compassion to help homeless people, and that's where it originally started from about year and a half ago. But his concern he shared with me was if he gave money to a homeless person, he couldn't guarantee that person gets food," Ramie Poh said.
The family knew they hit on the right idea when they learned the Food Bank provides food staples like cereal and bread, but does not hand out milk or butter because they previously did not stock dairy products.
Osten had originally thought of a punch card system families could use, but a better solution is to generate donations for The Dairy Department, and have the Food Bank purchase only the needed quantities of dairy items on a weekly basis and keep them in their walk-in cooler.
The Poh family approached a number of Swift Current businesses this past week with their idea, and they will be making further visits during the comings weeks to help turn his vision into reality. The initial response has been quite positive, with a number of corporate and individual donations shared in the first days of the project.
"I didn't think that it would work out, but I'm happy it did," a shy Osten said while being interviewed last week.
Businesses, individuals and organizations interested in supporting Osten's Dairy Department initiative can purchase a gift card in their desired amount from the Wholesale Club, Safeway, Pioneer Co-op or WalMart. Donations can then be dropped off at the Salvation Army, where a charitable donation receipt will be issued.
"He's touched the community. It's a Salvation Army partnership, but he's the one that got the program going," Ramie Poh said.
She points out a main push came following a visit to Mexico, where the youngster saw homeless people, people washing in the creek, and individuals who looked hungry. His thoughts turned to wanting to help people at home who did not have enough food to eat.
"I kind of sat on that and I thought, OK, well maybe this is just an idea that came and he verbalized it and it wouldn't be followed through. So I waited a while, but I had kind of kept notes of what he wanted. So then he came to be again and he said 'remember when I talked to you about that?' I said yes. And he said 'are we ever going to do anything about that?'"
Their meeting with the Salvation Army turned into a perfect partnership for this idea to blossom.
"When we had that meeting with the Salvation Army, they asked Osten what his idea was, and he just started spilling out all these ideas," she said.
Shawn Poh said their initial presentations to downtown businesses were well received, with a positive reaction from business people being pitched an idea by an elementary aged youngster.
"The businesses we went to yesterday seemed to be fairly open to the idea," he admitted.
The family are hoping the Dairy Department project catches on.
"I hope it goes through and I hope it goes all year," she said. "But if we can help a few people with the amount of money we've raised."
Families and individuals benefiting from items generated through the The Dairy Department will know how they have received their dairy items thanks to another initiative thought up by Osten. Each Dairy Department item will contain a business card which simply states: "Dairy Department. I hope this helps your family. Osten Poh Age 9."