Edmonton diner servers donate tips to sponsor Syrian family

EDMONTON — All of the tips gathered by servers at Edmonton’s Highlevel Diner Saturday will be pooled to sponsor a Syrian family to come to Canada.

Kim Franklin, one of five owners of the popular diner, is part of a group called “Bayt al’ Amal” or House of Hope. The group is working with St. Joseph’s College and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton to bring a refugee family to Edmonton.

“Being really concerned about people having to flee their homes, being stuck on sides of mountains trying to get away. These are people that are leaving because of conflict and I couldn’t find anybody that I knew that was doing anything,” said Franklin.

“It got to the point, when I saw the picture of that little boy, that I couldn’t live with myself any more.”

The photo Franklin is referring to is the one of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on the shore near the Turkish resort of Bodrum. The Kurdi family fled the war-ravaged city of Kobani and was trying to get to the Greek island of Kos and onward to a safer life.

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READ MORE: Will this photo help people grasp the desperation of Syrian refugees?

Sponsoring a family of four for one year costs about $35,000-$40,000 and the money must be paid up front. The group needs to have the money collected by next week.

“In the past when there’s been crises in the world the diner staff have stepped up,” said Franklin. “We’ve raised money for typhoon victims for the Red Cross for Haiti and it was a natural thing for us to do a fundraiser here for the people of Syria that we wanted to help.”

Server Marie Dussault said giving up one day’s tips is the least she can do to help.

“It’s very hard to imagine when we’re lucky enough to live in a country like Canada,” she said.

“We give a tiny bit, just a little bit of money and all together it’s going to make such a big difference for them.”

Leslie Sparrow is a regular customer at the diner. While eating her bacon and eggs Saturday, Sparrow said she made a donation on top of her tip in hopes of helping a bit more.

“I just think this is a really important cause,” said Sparrow. “I keep thinking how lucky we are to be born in Canada and how Canada has always supported people around the world where they can.”

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The owners of the diner plan to match the tips collected Saturday to reach their sponsorship goal. The Canadian government will match them with a Syrian family once the funds are raised.

“I hope that they can get over the trauma of where they’re coming from,” Franklin said of the family. “It’s a terrible thing to have to flee your country, to leave everything that you know behind. It would be an awful thing so I’m hoping that we can give some safety and peace to these people.”

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