Give to a local charity this holiday season

It’s that time of year again, the time where shopping centres are buzzing with people buying holiday gifts and children are making wish lists for Santa. While the holiday frenzy has begun, in some homes, most of the household income goes toward food and shelter for the family so there isn’t enough money for Christmas gifts. Some children don’t have a family to spend the holidays with.

This holiday season, give the gift of giving and donate to a local cause that you’re passionate about. Whether it be a charity that helps low-income families, individuals affected by homelessness or ill children. Here are some causes that can get you started on giving this holiday season.

According to a 2017 housing report from York Region, 1,181 individuals were residing in emergency housing units due to homelessness. Many in the region often turn to government subsidized housing, emergency housing facilities and local shelters for support.

The York Region Shoebox Project for Women is one of many local programs that helps homeless individuals. The program is designed to provide women with shoeboxes filled with items to reduce feelings of low self-worth and isolation during the holiday season. Boxes can be filled with items such as makeup, scarves or nail polish. Veronica K. Fazio, York Region Shoebox Project coordinator says the boxes are meant to empower women in the community and show them that people care.

“We want to let them know that the community is recognizing them and wants them to feel special and not forgotten,” she said. “We want to make them feel like society cares because we do care. The community cares and that’s the reason why we’re doing it.”

For the past seven years, the organization has partnered with multiple shelters such as the Yellow Brick House, Sandgate Women’s Shelter, Pregnancy Care Centre and North York Women’s Shelter. Through the collaboration, women in the shelters have been gifted with items that have given them the support they need during the holiday season.

Another organization that provides support to individuals affected by homelessness is Covenant House. The organization provides shelter for homeless and at-risk youth across the GTA. Every year, Covenant House gives backpacks filled with items to youth living in the shelter. This holiday season, some items you can donate are clothing, stationary and transit tokens.

The Unionville Youth Council has donated to Covenant House for several years. Miles Ah-Ton, Unionville Youth Council co-chair, says they’ve chosen to help out on several occasions because of the “immense need for donations.”

“There are thousands of homeless children, teens and adults in our community, and through this organization, we are able to contribute to the improvement of their livelihoods,” he said. “We hope that, by doing this, we are able to make life just a tiny bit easier for many who are struggling due to homelessness.”

With Christmas around the corner, there are also many low-income families that can use your help this holiday season. This time of year can be tough when buying gifts for friends and family. If you’re looking to help out a low-income family with some holiday shopping, there are plenty of organizations across the GTA that accept donations.

An example of a local initiative that helps low-income families is the York Regional Police Holiday Heroes Campaign. This campaign is running for its 22nd year and accepts items such as new clothing, toys, non-perishable food, and monetary donations to help alleviate some of the financial pressure that affects low-income families.

“The holidays are supposed to be a happy time, but for many families in our region it is not,” said Carrie Rutledge, special events coordinator for the York Regional Police. “No donation is too small, and every donation helps make a difference to someone else.”

If you’re looking to raise awareness towards a social issue, there are many local and global organizations that offer different venues for giving to the cause.

The Yellow Brick House is one of many organizations that can get you started. The organization provides shelter and support for women and children who have experienced domestic violence. By donating items such as gift cards or financially supporting the organization, you can give women and children the supplies and support they need to build a better future.

“The holiday season is a time for families to reflect on how blessed we are in many ways and to support those that are less fortunate,” said Lorris Herenda, Yellow Brick House executive director. “By having the community support Yellow Brick House and the families here, it means the world to the women and children because they feel that people care for them and that they’re not alone in this world. We want to show the women and children affected by domestic violence that our community cares about this issue and that we are working toward the elimination of this issue in our society.”

Yellow Brick House hosts the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event that takes place during November to raise awareness about domestic violence and the impact it has on women and children. November is also abuse awareness and prevention month, so all shelters across Ontario are selling purple scarves as a part of a campaign called Wrapped in Courage.

A former Yellow Brick House resident, who requested not to be named, just moved into a new home with her child. She says the support and supplies she received has helped her and her child get through their difficult past and has made both their futures brighter.

“I’m so appreciative, lucky and grateful to be here,” she said.

There are also many organizations that take monetary donations or toys for ill children. Every year, SickKids hosts their Holiday Gift Drive to collect toys to give to patients that are spending the holidays in their facilities.

Photo: Employees from Circle K donate to the Yellow Brick House during the holiday season.

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