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Giving back to the community: examples of kindness and generosity

Photo courtesy: City of Toronto

We reached out to faculty and staff to find out what they are doing to support the community during this holiday season. These are their stories:

The Faculty of Design Office has donated $500 to support Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank while Betsy Moss, instructor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and SIS, supports the Avenue Road Food Bank by editing a weekly newsletter and sharing stories and photos from food bank volunteers with the religious community that hosts the food bank in their building. The food bank partners with the Daily Bread Food Bank and Second Harvest to meet the need for food and hygiene products for people in the community.

For Evan Tapper, the Redwood is an amazing place that offers safety, healing and opportunities for growth for women and their children fleeing abuse. The director of the Office of Continuing Studies has been volunteering there for years, running a weekly art program for children at the shelter. Fortunately, they have been able to continue the art program online through the pandemic. The Redwood has been dealing with an escalation of gender-based violence during the pandemic. Evan is also a donor and has increased his holiday donation to the Redwood this year.

The Redwood is also the charity of choice for Leslie Aston Hurst who has donated to this charity to support the annual Christmas gift drive. And Leslie, who is the executive assistant to the vice-president, Finance & Administration and vice-provost, Students & International, tells us that she has been so inspired by people’s generosity that she has made a donation to the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Employee Wellness and Equity Advisor Shazia Hussain has been supporting her community through donations with the Parkdale Community Foodbank, Muslim Welfare Association Food Bank, Period Purse (providing marginalized people with access to free menstrual products), and the Salvation Army Toy Drive. She is also involved in Neighbours Helping Neighbours, a new program created at her apartment building. This initiative provides support to individuals, such as grocery shopping, who are especially vulnerable, at risk or who are self-isolating due to COVID-19.

When the pandemic hit, Elli Chemel designed a product that merged the iconic ’Slap’ bracelet with a hand sanitizer container/dispenser. The Industrial Design instructor recently donated $5,000 worth of SlapON™ sanitizer wristbands to the Leaside Toy Drive, which benefits some of Toronto’s neighbourhoods like Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park that have been deeply impacted by COVID-19.

When it comes to holiday shopping, this year Elaine Gaito, manager of sponsorship and corporate partnerships, has been supporting local, independently owned retailers, including several that are owned and operated by OCAD U alumni like jewelry designer and OCAD U grad Corey Moranis, OCAD U grad Shanna Van Maurik and Kid Icarus, which is owned and operated by OCAD U grad Michael Viglione.

Curator of the Onsite Gallery Lisa Smith is supporting these three organizations – the Toronto Arts Council, Toronto Tiny Shelters and the Black Legal Action Centre. In fact, there are other OCAD U faculty and staff supporting Toronto Tiny Shelters.

Every year in December, Miles Collyer and his wife Alynne Lavigne support the charitable not-for-profit organization Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art with a donation at the “Mercer Catalysts” level. Mercer Union is a vital artist-driven space in Toronto who supports artists to develop and take risks with their work.

Whenever possible, Miles, manager of career development at the Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers and his wife also support the efforts of the encampment support network, which provides critical help and necessities to homeless city park encampment residents. Says Miles: “The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated Toronto’s housing crisis, and it’s a tragedy that, with the onset of winter, we have seen encampments cleared and their residents and advocates criminalized.”

Connie Arezes-Reis supports Diabetes Canada regularly by donating clothing and other items. They have a good program, including home pick-up, which has been either discontinued or adjusted for some areas due to COVID-19, and there are donation bins across the city for drop-off. Says the assistant director of HR: now that we are working at home, I think many of us are more aware of our need to declutter and maximize our space. This program is a great opportunity to do that, while donating to a good cause and ensuring that all our extra stuff doesn’t end up in a landfill. Generosity and sustainability in one.”

Associate Professor in the Faculty of Art and OCADFA President Min Sook Lee bowled with community activists to raise funds to support essential workers organizing for labour rights. The Ontario Employment Education & Research Centre (OEERC) hosted its 9th annual Workers’ Bowl 2020 as a virtual online fundraiser from September 30 to December 5, 2020. All funds raised from the event are going to support the OEERC’s Education and Leadership Fund for Workers in Precarious Employment to create collaborative community leadership development and educational projects with the Workers’ Action Centre.

Campus Life Coordinator Brent James is a long-time volunteer and supporter of the Toronto People with AIDS (PWA) Foundation. This past year, he has also been giving monthly to Canadian Feed the Children with my contributions specifically directed towards supporting our own brothers and sisters in northern Indigenous communities.

One staff member is supporting a gofundme initiative, Indigenous Feast Boxes, to raise funds to help support Indigenous brothers and sisters across Canada, with the help of Indigenous chefs their teams, and communities.

A few more ways that members of the OCAD U community are showing generosity and kindness during these COVID-19 times: