Making paper bag lunches for homeless people was supposed to be a one-time thing for 12-year old Nathan Unrau.
Over a thousand delivered lunches later, Nathan isn’t ready to stop.
"Homeless people don’t have what we have," says Nathan, referring to his family. "They don’t always get lunch everyday. We started making sandwiches because they can carry around those sandwiches with them — they don’t have to put them in a bowl."
The student at Westdale Junior High, along with his parents and a small team of multi-aged volunteers, spends every second Sunday making paper bag lunches for guests of Main Street Project in what they have come to call Lunches with Love.
Each session, the team makes between 200 and 250 lunches. Each lunch is made up of a tuna or egg salad sandwich, a piece of fruit, and two cookies.
Lunches With Love started when Nathan needed to do a charity project for school. After he and his mother Elsie delivered the sandwiches to Main Street Project for the first time, they decided they needed to keep going.
"I grew up in that end of the city ," says Elsie. "But my son grew up in the ‘Charleswood bubble’. When we took Nathan with us the first time to go deliver, I had forgotten the need that is in the downtown area.
"The first time we went there, I cried halfway home."
Witnessing the poverty that exists in Winnipeg was at first startling for Nathan.
"When I went down for the first time I was a little bit scared," he says. "But now when we go down they recognize us and say ‘Hey! The lunch people!"
Word spread around the community, and now other families have joined the Unraus for lunchmaking.
Deborah Lawrence heard about Lunches With Love through seeing a friend post about it on Facebook . Now she is a regular volunteer.
"I thought it was really cool that Nathan was initiating this project," says Lawrence. "I’m privileged to be able to eat when I want, go inside when I want. I wanted to be able to help others in a way that’s not just giving money."
Lunches With Love gratefully accepts donations of wholegrain bread, eggs, cans of tuna, juice boxes and fruit. They prefer not to accept cash donations.
Nathan and Elsie also encourage others to start their own Lunches With Love groups.
For more information, visit their Facebook page by searching for Lunches With Love.
Amanda Thorsteinsson is a community correspondent for Charleswood.