By TOM GODFREY
Mark McKenzie says his life changed forever after raising 2,000 pounds of food to help the Salvation Army of Brampton feed the needy.
McKenzie, 46, who is employed in the finance industry, got into charity work as part of a High Performance Leadership exercise required to obtain a Distinguished Toastmaster Credit with the Toastmasters International, of which he has been a member for 15 years.
He used social media and posted his food collection bid to fellow Toastmaster club members in Brampton and Mississauga and was overwhelmed with support. The collection ran from November 11 to December 18 and raised several skids of food.
McKenzie said his goal for the Holiday Season Food Drive was to raise at least 10 boxes of non-perishable food.
“Most people are compassionate towards their fellow citizens and will go above and beyond to help others succeed,” McKenzie said after the food drive. “I am satisfied that I have been able to help the Salvation Army of Brampton help some of those in need in our community.”
The Jamaican-born father of three said anyone can lose their job and have no means of financial support.
“Anybody can get hurt and have to go through hard times which means using food banks,” he said. “I always wanted to help out others with a food collection drive.”
He said fellow Toastmasters rose to the challenge and helped raise items that included water, fish, pasta, macaroni and canned goods.
“I will do it again next year,” McKenzie said. “I received so much out of this and from helping others.”
The motivational speaker wrote a blog and spoke to fellow Toastmasters about the four-week “life-changing” experience.
“I feel a sense of accomplishment after this,” he said. “People are gracious and truthful and I feel good for helping those in that position.”
McKenzie, who owns his own business, is involved in a number of school and community groups that work with youths. He is involved with Leaders Leave Legacies Workshop of High School and College Students in Peel and is listed as an advocate against youth violence and human trafficking in the GTA.
He belongs to the Calabar Old Boys Association, Canadian Chapter and is co-chair of the school council of the Terry Fox Elementary Public School in Brampton.
McKenzie holds a Bachelors of Science from the University of the West Indies, in Jamaica.
Food drive supporter Tuula Redditt, a digital artist, said food bank recipients were thankful and appreciative of the contribution.
“The experience of giving was very moving,” Redditt said. “People were appreciative of our efforts and it was a very touching moment.”
Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization that helps members develop public speaking and leadership skills. It boasts a membership of 292,000, who attend 14,350 clubs in 122 countries that form a global network of meeting locations.