Community comes together this holiday season to support York Region Media Group Santa Fund
Jan. 19, 2015
By Simon Martin
Community spirit was alive and well in York Region this past Christmas.
Residents, businesses, churches and community groups from Georgina to Markham showed overwhelming generosity in supporting the York Region Media Group’s Santa Fund in 2014.
With your help, YRMG was able to partner with local organizations across the region to deliver support to families during the Christmas season.
This year, the Santa Fund worked with Yellow Brick House, Blue Door Shelters, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Sandgate Shelter, St. Vincent de Paul and the Welcome Centre.
By having such a wide variety of partners from across the region, Santa Fund co-ordinator Mary McClenaghan-Martin said, there is better chance the Santa Fund can reach people who are truly in need.
“Many of my staff were overwhelmed by the support,” Rebecca Shields, the CEO for CMHA York Region and South Simcoe said.
The people receiving items such as boots, coats and toys were so thankful that the community showed support to them, Shields said.
This is the first year the Santa Fund has worked with CMHA and Shields can attest that every little bit of support makes a big difference.
“For families that are really struggling, when the generosity comes in from the residents of York Region, it means they have healthier meals, they can afford rent for that month and focus on other things that they need,” she said. “It’s about living in a caring community.”
One in five youth has a mental illness and that demographic is three times more likely to abuse substances, she said. The second leading cause of death of youth aged 15 to 24 is suicide. Of the estimated youth population in our region, more than 22,800 are suffering with mental health issues and fewer than 5,000 will actually get support.
With the Santa Fund’s support, the CMHA was able to assist approximately 50 families. “We dropped off in every neighbourhood in York Region. This is supporting the entire community,” Shields said.
At the Blue Door Shelters, clients were so thankful to feel the love from the community through the close to $4,000 donated in WalMart and Cineplex gifts cards as well as toys and books.
“I was close to giving up, but you have restored my faith. I was shocked at this amazing gift. Thank you so much,” a client from the Porter Place men’s shelter said.
“The last thing I expected was to receive anything at all on Christmas. So to the ones who took the time and thought to allow for an individual to have something instead of nothing on Christmas is truly a special person doing something special for someone they don’t even know,” another client said.
The gift cards empower clients to get what they truly need at Christmas, Blue Door Shelters executive director Anne Stubley said. “We are so appreciative of what people do to support the Santa Fund.”
The sentiments were much the same at Yellow Brick House, a shelter for abused women and children, where 25 families were supported. “We were completely overwhelmed with the generosity. Our clients were amazed the community cares about them so much,” Yellow Brick House executive director Lorris Herenda said.
The Yellow Brick House staff was surprised at the number of items the community was able to provide on the list of families’ needs. The organization keeps an updated wish list of things it needs on its website throughout the year.
Herenda said a program like the Santa Fund wouldn’t be possible without a community connector like YRMG.
“YRMG does tremendous work in getting the community to support vulnerable families,” she said.
For McClenaghan-Martin, YRMG plays the role of connecting the community to these local agencies and the people who use them.
“The endeavour is only possible because of an unbelievable outpouring of support from families, businesses, churches and other organizations,” she said. “It is a privilege to be involved with people and organizations we support."