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Kennedy Blaskin (right), a University of Lethbridge student and member of the Pronghorn Women’s Basketball team, started the Paper Bag Project, which delivers lunches to 30 homeless people every weekend.Handout

The organizer: Kennedy Blaskin

The pitch: Starting the Paper Bag Project

As a university student studying public health, Kennedy Blaskin understands the challenges facing people who live on the streets. But she wanted to do more than learn about the issue in class.

So in September, 2022, Ms. Blaskin launched the Paper Bag Project, a weekly lunch service for homeless people in Lethbridge, Alta., where she is a fourth-year student at the University of Lethbridge. Every Sunday morning Ms. Blaskin and a handful of volunteers make about 30 lunch bags, each containing a few snacks, a sandwich, some fruit and a juice box. Sometimes they’ll throw in some gloves or hand warmers if they have any.

Then they head out to various parts of the city and hand the bags out to homeless people.

“It’s just to help out during the times when they may be hungry and the shelter may not be providing certain meals for them,” Ms. Blaskin said from her apartment in Lethbridge. “It’s going really well. I have some amazing volunteers that come out.”

Ms. Blaskin, 21, funds much the project herself and she’s kept it going even though she carries a full-time academic load, plays guard on the Pronghorns basketball team and volunteers with Big Brothers and Big Sisters as well as the Special Olympics.

Most of her volunteers are teammates or athletes from other sports, and she’s found that many are surprised at the people they meet. “They’ll come back and be like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know how bad it was’ or ‘I didn’t know how young some of these people are,’” she said.

She’s also gotten to know many of the people she serves. “They’re amazing. I can’t lie,” she said. Ms. Blaskin makes a point of always taking time to chat. “They’re people and they just want to talk,” she said. “So it’s okay to take a few seconds to ask how their day is going. We don’t need to just drop the lunch off and walk away.”

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