Danny, a 13-year-old volunteer, sat at one of a handful of tables on the lower floor of Holy Blossom Temple, sandwiched between his father and older brother, cutting fringes into a large swath of felt that that the trio were transforming into a blanket for someone living on the street. “It’s really important for me to give back in as many ways as possible,” he said, as he continued cutting and tying knots into the hockey-print fabric. “It is up to us to do everything in our power to lift up others so that they can live up to their full potential.”
Danny is among 400 volunteers who together raised over $65,000 and gathered this past Sunday, from 1-4pm at 10 different locations across Toronto to roll up their sleeves, make cut-and-tie fleece blankets, bake cookies, and pack harm reduction kits, to help people facing homelessness across the GTA.
The results of the 4th Annual Ve’ahavta Project will have a tangible impact on people’s lives. Over three hours, volunteers made 225 blankets, baked 450 cookies, and packed 300 harm reduction kits, all of which will be distributed on the organization’s two outreach vans, which operate 7 nights a week, delivering hot meals, donated clothing, hygiene products, and other necessities at shelters, encampments and to individual rough sleepers in Toronto’s downtown core and Scarborough.
Even more significant than the practical outputs of this day of hands-on volunteering, is the powerful message the event and its participants conveyed to people facing homelessness – that we will be your safety net. As humans, we all encounter difficult times. The difference between someone who ends up sleeping on the street and someone who doesn’t, is a safety net – a family, friend, or community that props you up when the chips are down. Ve’ahavta and its supporters are the safety net for people who don’t have one.
“This event is about supplying the people we serve with the critical supplies they need,” says Ve’ahavta’s Executive Director, Cari Kozierok. “Our message is that we are there for you – we are your safety net.”
In addition to its outreach van program, Ve’ahavta staff and volunteers help people facing extreme poverty and homelessness take the next steps on their journey to self-sufficiency through supportive learning, training, and paid commercial kitchen and warehouse internship programs.
“The [Building Foundations for Women] program at Ve’ahavta helped me so much,” said one client, who preferred to remain anonymous. “It helped me get clarity on what I wanted to do and what I wanted to get out of life. Besides the education, I got an incredible support team. I learned how to believe in myself.”
Ve’ahavta’s programmatic offerings are underscored by the wisdom that the path to sustainable self-sufficiency (and a sustainable end to homelessness) lies in equipping those who are ready, with the emotional support, and the hard and soft skills, to attain and maintain employment.