Comments Off on “I wanted to make sure others have the same chance I did.” – How Theresa Pays it Forward
Asking for help is hard.
When Theresa visited our Lawrence Heights Community Food Space for the first time, her hands were shaking. “I was so embarrassed to have to ask for food,” she remembers. The single mother was desperately in need of help to put food on her table, but we often hear, Theresa felt ashamed of her situation.
Theresa’s situation, however, is not unlike the ones many others face in Toronto. “I was new to the city. I came here because I thought I’d be able to find work. But it was harder than I expected.” Because of the generosity of our community, Theresa was greeted warmly by Julie, our Food Bank Manager.
She walked away with the food she needed and a new sense of belonging. Just like 1 in 3 of our clients, Theresa wanted to “pay it forward”. Even though she was in a time of personal crisis, she was determined to give back so others could receive the same help she had. She became a volunteer to create a safe, friendly space for her neighbours who were also struggling.
“I told Julie to call me whenever she needed help – day or night. I wanted to make sure others have the same chance I did. I know this community needs help, so I’m helping in the way I can,” Theresa insists with a shy smile.
Stories like Theresa’s happen at North York Harvest agencies every day. Emergency food assistance makes life a little better and restores a sense of purpose and hope. People come in for help and find a community.
Your support makes sure that providing emergency food support is just the beginning of our relationship with people like Theresa. And just like you, Theresa is committed to building a healthier Northern Toronto.
Will you join Theresa and give what you can to make sure our community members in need can find healthy food across Northern Toronto?
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with the incredible volunteers and clients at the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space. Located in a tiny room inside Northview Heights Secondary School, the hustle and bustle of getting prepared for the upcoming drop in made the room buzz. Operating outside of school hours, volunteers make sure the shelves are stocked and fridges full to help community members put food on the table.
Elis, who manages the food space, treats everyone that enters like family. Everyone is in this together and a VIP in the eyes of the caring volunteers.
One of the VIP clients using the food bank is Anna. Anna has been living in Canada for 11 years after leaving Uzbekistan because she was unable to find work.
After working 9 years at local Russian grocery stores, Anna had a child named Nikita and found herself out of work in order to take care of him each day. She had to go on social assistance but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to cover all of her expenses from rent and utilities to food and baby supplies. She was in a bind.
While searching for a way to get baby powder and baby food, Anna came to the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space. When she arrived, the helpful volunteers let her know that not only she could receive baby products, but she was also given food for herself. Anna was amazed by the kindness and generosity that was located right in her neighbourhood. She has been coming to the food bank for the past year now which has helped her stretch her small income.
To get to the food bank, Anna walks with Nikita in his stroller. During the harsh winter months, she was unable to take her stroller through the icy and snowy sidewalks and had no way to access the food bank. Thomas, a volunteer, took the time to drop off food to her home for three months so Anna and Nikita wouldn’t have to go without. “It was amazing that someone was willing to come and help us out when we couldn’t get around,” says Anna, “the food bank volunteers are wonderful!”
After Anna’s father passed away, her mother is still living in Uzbekistan alone. Anna hopes that her mother will be able to join her in Canada so they can be together again. “If she comes to stay with me, she’ll be able to help take care of Nikita so I can go back to school and get a full time job,” says Anna who dreams of becoming a paralegal one day to support her family.
Anna would recommend that anyone who needs help in her neighbourhood visit the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space. “They are so caring and have been so helpful to Nikita and myself. If someone is in need of help they will bring you in and treat you like family.”
At the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space, it is about more than just putting food on the table, it’s about bringing family to that table.
One everyday hero located right in your community is Kayla*. I recently had the opportunity to meet Kayla at the North York Harvest Annual General Meeting back in February. We were in a workshop together and she shared her experiences as a food bank volunteer. I needed to hear more so I could share her story with you.
Kayla has been a volunteer at her local food bank for more than two years dedicating her time six days per week. This is quite incredible as Kayla suffers from many health issues such as a degenerative disk disease in her back, panic attacks, insomnia and is waiting to have knee surgery. This doesn’t stop our hero though; she chooses to work through the pain to make a difference in the lives of her neighbours in need. “If I could have sleepovers here I would!” jokes Kayla.
Kayla’s tasks at the food bank include receiving deliveries, stocking shelves, serving clients and records management. She even packs and delivers food hampers for the “Fresh Start” program that does home deliveries for seniors as well as those unable to physically make it to the food bank.The services she and her other fellow volunteers provide benefit children, families, seniors, those with disabilities and people who can’t leave their home.
A typical food hamper from a NYH food bank
Regardless of Kayla’s health problems, she feels that giving her time at the food bank gives her something else to focus on and a purpose. She strives to make a difference in the lives of her fellow neighbours. This can be done through her daily food bank tasks or even going above and beyond to help someone in need. One particular story of Kayla’s is a time that she was able to assist a client with her job search. The client had needed to know CPR in order to be eligible for a job but could not afford the training. Kayla took the time to research and found a course that was offered for free.
Kayla told me that seeing a smile on the face of someone she has helped is so rewarding in her work.
It absolutely blows me away when I see this kind of dedication from volunteers. And it is throughout the network! Each day volunteers take time out of their day to come in and help their neighbours meet their food needs.
Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to have incredible stories like this to share.From you to me, me to Kayla, Kayla to the client and back to you again – we are really part of something bigger than ourselves. I feel that being able to share these stories truly closes the circle of connectivity in our community
Join Kayla in being a community hero!
Together we all work as a community to make a difference for more than 15,000 people that access these types of programs each month!
Want to come in for an evening with family and friends?
Every Tuesday evening we offer sorting sessions for families and friends! Learn how YOUR help in the food sorting room goes a long way to ensure that your neighbours get the best food possible! It’s a great way to have fun, get some exercise and give back!
Spring is in the air and our office is buzzing! Okay, yes I admit, these past few weeks have felt like we’ve experienced all four seasons at once – but trust me… Spring is almost here!
To celebrate the amazing weather on the way, we are kicking off the Spring Food Drive and we want YOU to be a part of it!
The Spring Drive is so important for making sure that the pantries are stocked during the warmer months to ensure no one has to go without! Together we can make sure that everyone meets their food needs!
Help us raise $100,000 and 100,000 lbs. of food! Your support will help more than 15,000 people each month using food banks, meal programs, prenatal/early parenting programs, community kitchens and other vital services throughout the city.
Getting involved with the food drive is a lot of fun and helps so many people! Just ask Lauren, who has been running food drives for more than ten years!
“I first heard about North York Harvest back in 2005 when I was 14 years old. A NYH bag came to our house with the local newspaper letting us know how we could help,” says Lauren. “I decided right then to do a food drive. At 14 it was a really cool thing to do. Our first food drive raised 170 pounds and its increased so much since then!”
Lauren and her parents have made food drives not only a family tradition, but a tradition within their neighbourhood. “I love going door to door to see everyone in the neighbourhood. A lot of the people I grew up with still give every year because they know that people rely on our help. It has become a real connection to the community.”
What are Lauren’s tips for running YOUR food drive?
It is much easier than it looks and it is much more rewarding too! Its benefits are huge!
We grocery shop as a family and sometimes with a few neighbours as well –add such items as baby formula, canned proteins. Living in a multi-cultural city and community, we also try to contribute spices and different types of food. Click here for a list of suggested foods to donate
Over 400 people rely on the food bank EVERY DAY. You can help!
2016 has come to a close. It’s been quite the year, hasn’t it? Whether you had a great year or can’t wait for 2017 to start, we can all agree that a lot has happened over the past 365 days.
Here at NYH, there has been a lot of excitement and progress over the past year. We’ve seen many accomplishments and triumphs thanks to our amazing clients, volunteers, donors, staff and supporters! We wouldn’t have had such a terrific year without YOU!
I asked my colleagues in the office, warehouse and on the front lines what their favourite memories of 2016 were and got quite an impressive response!
I considered doing one of those end of year top ten lists but then realized that I can’t decide which is the best one! So here, in no particular order, are some of the great milestones, achievements and moments from 2016!
2016 was BIG for programs, partnerships, feedback and healthy eating!
Of course I couldn’t start off without saying THANK YOU for providing food to people in our community! This year we served more than 15,000 people every month and distributed over 2.3 MILLION lbs. of food!
On top of putting food on the table for our neighbours in need, there were many other exciting things happening this year, including:
Child Care Food Delivery
This year NYH partnered with Learning Enrichment Foundation to bring healthy meals and snacks to over 1400 kids in childcare programs throughout the city.
For 3 months this year, NYH was able to run a community kitchen in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood. Each week, participants came together to learn cooking skills and enjoy a meal together. Learn more about Mission Kitchen here!
Food Handling Certificates and Meal Programs
The Oriole Food Space ran a series of community kitchen programs in partnership with Flemingdon Health Centre and Working Women Community Centre, particularly aimed at Syrian refugees. We trained a group of almost 20 Arabic speaking newcomers in food handling and food safety, necessary skills in securing employment in the food sector.
This year NYH got into the exciting world of food production! We partnered with FoodShare & Foodstarter to form a unique partnership to produce a soup that would help our community meet their food needs. With the help of students and volunteers, we were able to produce a dry lentil soup that will be sold through FoodShare’s Good Food Boxes & Grab Some Good pop up markets. Each soup sold will put a soup on the food bank shelf for someone hungry in the community.
Toronto Star Santa Hampers
This was first year we were able to distribute a healthier hamper for those receiving the Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund Hampers. Every hamper included perishable items including eggs, cheese, apples and more!
Many of our clients were able to visit community farms in and around the city to see first hand where some of the fresh and nutritious produce that goes to their table comes from.
A comprehensive client survey was conducted in our food banks. Results are being put together now and will be used to guide future programming to ensure clients receive the best service possible!
Logistics Essentials Workforce Development
Using our warehouse space, we have embarked on a training program for low income individuals to learn skills for the workplace. Students will learn technical and employments skills as well as receiving certification for Forklift driving, safe food handling and WHMIS.
Lawrence Heights Community Food Space found a new home at 6 Pengarth Court. LHCFS is also our first community food space to move to the new appointment based model. This allows clients to have an appointment at the food bank to ensure less wait time, giving them better access to services and supports, and a personal touch.
Our frontline staff have had extensive training over the past year in non-violent conflict resolution, working in communities that experience gun violence, trauma informed care, food handlers certificates, developing a community of practice, program development, evaluation and implementation
This year we were honoured with the Advocacy Award from the Ontario Association of Food Banks recognizing our efforts towards addressing hunger in the community.
This year we celebrated our donors at Taylor’s Landing. It was a great opportunity to connect with some amazing people that are helping us provide our services in the community.