The University of Toronto Students’ Union, the Family Care Office, and the Student Housing Office are organizing their ninth annual food and clothing drive to help support needy families for the holidays.
“Every year, we help anywhere between 75–100 families. It’s a rather big project, and we want whatever little bit of help we can get,” explained Marketing and Events Coordinator at the Student Housing Service, Jerry Zhuang. “Every single bit of contribution will make a huge difference.
Drop boxes have been set up across campus to collect toys and canned food. Once items are collected, UTSU Member Service Coordinator Terri Nikolaevsky explained how the goods will be distributed. “The donation of new toys will then be distributed through the campus food and clothing bank to families in need on December 10 and 17 at our site location, 569 Spadina Avenue, in the Multi-Faith Centre between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.”
“While the food and clothing bank runs all year long, we specifically collect toys at this time of the year to ensure that our student families have a great holiday season in the face of tight budgets,” continued Nikolaevsky.
Zhuang hopes U of T will come together this season and improve upon last year’s results. “We delivered around 200 toys last year. Looking to deliver to the same number of families, maybe a bit more, it’s definitely growing.”
Despite being roughly aligned with the Christmas season, Nikolaevsky stresses that all faiths and cultures are encouraged to participate. “This year we welcome Multi-Faith groups to the fold who are actively seeking donations for our students and student families.”
“We’re doing things a little differently this year,” Nikolaevsky added. “Our efforts extend further to include an annual fundraiser for the food and clothing bank [that will] showcase […] exceptional U of T talent, a wonderful three-course dinner, and an auction.”
Jennifer Bennett, manager of the Student Housing Service, said the food drive is a very key community-building event.
“The food drive is important because it’s raising awareness and creating a community between people during the holiday time, which is such a hard time for so many.”
Cheryl McGratten believes that beyond just fostering a community, the fundraiser is a way of making those who are studying abroad or are new immigrants to the country feel more welcome. “The U of T food and toy drive is one way to help those recently separated from their countries, and share some encouragement, joy, and fun,” explained McGratten, adding that she hopes they will also enjoy the diversity and multiculturalism of this city.
“It’s a great feeling, to be standing in the middle of a mountain of toys, and knowing that lots of kids will be having a wonderful winter holiday,” explained Zhuang.
In helping promote the fundraiser, the co-coordinators’ favorite catch phrase is: “We want people to help us gift a smile.”