Patience Moses’ face lit up as she walked into Ellesmere Community Centre last week where volunteers were busily packing food hampers to be delivered to needy families in the city for the Christmas holidays.
She was one of the nearly 200 recipients of a Project Engagement goodwill hamper and she wanted to lend a helping hand at an event from which she and her family were going to benefit over the festive season.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford joined the event’s facilitator, councillor Michael Thompson, 41 Division police officers, Toronto Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel and other volunteers to pack turkeys, hams, fresh produce and canned goods that were distributed to the families last Wednesday.
“This means a lot for me and my family,” said the single mother of three. “This is such a great gesture and I am so happy to be one of the beneficiaries.”
Thompson and Vince Gasparro started the Christmas food drive four years ago.
“Councillor Thompson and the Project Engagement team have captured the essence of community building as well as the true holiday spirit,” said Ford. “Toronto needs to engage people from all sectors and all walks of life to solve the city’s challenges.”
Some 65 individuals and organizations contributed more than 15,000 kilograms of food which was enough to feed up to 200 families of five for up to a month.
“The source of a lot of challenges for a lot of people is simply having a good meal during the holidays,” said Thompson, chair of the city’s economic development committee. “This is a great labour of love for all of us involved…The level of commitment from the business sector and individual donors as well as the enthusiasm of our volunteers are an inspiration to our community. This initiative shows what can happen when you appeal to the best in people.”
Thompson also expressed his appreciation for the police presence.
“They have allowed us to use their station as a drop-off point for food products and they have also assisted with the delivery to homes which is amazing because when people see the police coming to their homes with goodies, they are very appreciative,” said the new police board member.
Hundreds of families have benefitted from the program since it was launched four years ago.
“It’s not a cure for poverty, but it helps people celebrate the holiday season and cope with the stress of winter,” said Gasparro. “It is one of the building blocks we are using to engage and mobilize people at the community level.”
Executive chef Suman Roy prepared breakfast for the volunteers that included former Justice of the Peace Arthur Downes and historian and curator Dr. Sheldon Taylor who assisted with coordinating the packaging and delivery.