A two-year-old girl is in a fantasy as she enters a room full of toys and food for her to choose from. But instead of creating her own winter wonderland, the little girl fills up her bag with the intention of creating paradise for her mother.
Upon encountering the girl and her bag, Dave Pittman, a volunteer at the Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre, gets a peek at this bundle of joy before she unleashes it on her mother, resulting in a tear-jerking moment that he will always cherish.
“She didn’t want to show it to her mother so she showed it to me,” Pittman said. “That touched me. I had a tear in my eye because of it.”
Pittman has witnessed this and other emotional moments while volunteering for the ongoing Share Christmas: Sponsor-A-Family program, housed inside the centre, located at 93 Birchmount Rd. Now in its 20th year, the Share Christmas program offers food, clothing and other basic necessities to families living at or below the poverty line.
The Share Christmas program now has over 400 volunteers, including Pittman, who was one of many on hand during the first day of family interviews at the centre on Oct. 9.
Pittman said that although some families are reserved about letting strangers help them, it is a nice way for volunteers to show their appreciation for their community, something he loves doing.
“A lot of people are a little apprehensive about taking help from strangers, but a lot of people will talk to you,” he said. “I just enjoy doing it and talking to them.”
Linda Curley is the volunteer coordinator for the Share Christmas program. She says when families are interviewed for this initiative, Share Christmas looks at low-income cutoff rates before exploring the family’s expenses to see what their financial situation truly looks like.
“We look at their basic expenses, and then we do the math, take that number and divide it by the number of people in the family to see truly what it looks like,” she said.
Alhough the program is named Share Christmas, Curley insists that families who do not celebrate the holiday can apply for this initiative, while intimating that not only are financial needs met, but emotional ones as well.
“It’s not about Christmas. It’s not about a day, a week or a month,” she said. “It’s about ensuring that families who are in need are supported over the winter months.”
Curley maintains that the program is about nothing if it is not about the people.
“There’s that human element to it. It’s about the people,” she said. “We’re not only looking at their financial needs but what other needs they have as a family: physically or emotionally.”
Curley said this connection plus the sacrifice sponsors make to help out those in need unites the Scarborough community.
“It’s about being connected to somebody else even if you never met them,” she said. “You know they were thinking about you.”