A free lunch program for Winnipeg’s homeless received a nice boost this morning.
Lunches With Love, a not-for-profit initiative that makes bag lunches in support of Winnipeg homeless shelters, received a cheque for $2,000 from Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada today. An official with the soft drink company made the presentation at the Coca-Cola offices.
Lunches With Love is the brainchild of Nathan Unrau, a Charleswood teenager who came up with the idea in 2012. Unrau, a high-functioning autistic 13-year-old student at Westdale School, wanted to do something that would make a positive difference for those who rely the various shelters in this city.
"What this means is that we get to make more lunches," offered a surprised Unrau, who thought he was just taking a guided tour of the bottling plant this morning. "I’m living proof that anyone can make a difference, no matter what your age."
With the help of his parents Rohan and Elsie, the program started with 47 lunches that were dropped off to the Main Street Project in 2012. After witnessing the tough conditions and the strength of the human spirit at the shelter, Unrau decided he wanted to make the program a regular part of his life and Lunches With Love expanded from there.
"When we first went down there, we could see the look on the homeless people’s faces and that just told us, ‘Man, we need to do more,’" Unrau said. "The reason why I’m doing this instead of playing Xbox at home is that I feel a need (to help) the homeless."
These days, Lunches With Love delivers 850 lunches once a month to shelters around Winnipeg. The program has between 20-30 volunteers and has plans to expand to approximately 1,600 lunches later this year.
"We’re starting up a second shift in October because we have too many volunteers -- we can’t accommodate them all," said Elsie Unrau, who helps Nathan oversee the operation. "The response to this program has been incredible. Honestly, we haven’t had to purchase an item in two years. Winnipeg has just been so generous with donations, whether it’s food, money or their time."
The $2,000 cheque should help put together approximately 1,500 lunches for Winnipeg’s homeless population, organizers with Lunches With Love said.