One day, Susan Dimitrakopoulos thought to start a Christmas drive for the Scarborough Arts.
“People just don’t need food at Christmas and Thanksgiving,” said Dimitrakopoulos, an administrator and service coordinator for Scarborough Arts. “We will have it [a drive to collect for those in need] next year on a continual basis.”
To help those in need, the Scarborough Arts is collecting food for the Share Christmas, sponsor a family program at Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre (BBNC).
One day, the program coordinator at BBNC, Judy Foremski, picked up the phone to find Dimitrakopoulos on the other line. When Dimitrakopoulos told Foremski that Scarborough Arts would like to help and donate to the Christmas drive, Foremski was elated.
Foremski explained that those who use the Scarborough services need much more than food.
“We focus on the basics,” Foremski said.
The basics Foremski refers to are clothing, such as underwear and warm sweaters and hygiene products such as laundry detergent and toothpaste.
Qualifying families are often referred from a local food bank and require identification, proof of address, income and rent. For a family to receive food, clothing and basics such as hygiene products, they must go through an interview process.
Interviews average 30 minutes and can take up a total of 250 volunteer hours.
“You really bond with someone when you ask them what underwear they like,” Foremski said.
Through the interviews, Foremski and the volunteers create vignettes. These vignettes tell the story of the families to those donating — even the size of underwear they wear.
“[The vignette could say] Troy is a single man, he’s struggling on $500 a month. He can’t make ends meet and requires the food bank,” Foremski said.
Through these vignettes, BBNC can suggest to sponsors that cleaning supplies or hygienic products such as deodorant are needed. But these aren’t items that Foremski and her team of volunteers most value.
“The most important thing about the program is food,” Foremski said.
The Christmas drive begins the same day every year, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and lasts until Dec. 19.