HOLIDAY HEROES: Stories of Good Deeds in Our Communities This Winter

by | Dec 10, 2020 | Community

There is hope and light this winter—we see it firsthand every day. We are surrounded by good people doing great deeds across Canada. These are our holiday heroes. Second Harvest is blessed to have thousands of dedicated volunteers (some of whom have been with us for over a decade) as well as partners, agencies, donors and team members. 

Together, we support 4,336 agency programs in 13 provinces and territories. In 2019, we rescued 22.3 million pounds of food that fed 1.3 million Canadians. All of us work toward common goals of helping to relieve hunger and redirect food waste across Canada. Our mission would be impossible without their dedication and support. 

This winter, we’re shedding some extra light on a few holiday heroes. These are the people who make a big difference in their local communities, regardless of the season.

We know how challenging winter can be for so many Canadians, especially now with hunger and uncertainty at all-time highs. Community has never been more important. Now is the time to give and support our local community members in need.

Here are a handful of holiday heroes and their stories of good deeds to inspire us through the holiday season.

Celebrating our timelessly dedicated holiday heroes this winter

We are blessed with long-term dedicated volunteers, partners, staff, agencies and donors. 

One individual donor, in particular, has shown us everlasting support. Louise has donated to our mission every year for the past 16 years! Her donations (and others just like her) help Second Harvest bring good, healthy food to millions of Canadians. 

She shared why she continues to support and donate to Second Harvest after so many years. We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank her.  

“I have been supporting Second Harvest for many years because this organization makes sense for many reasons,” Louise said. “It feeds people and helps the environment by using up good food that would just go to waste. Second Harvest makes its way to shelters, schools, etc.”

“During this pandemic, we are not dining out, restaurants are closed, and therefore can’t contribute, and families are relying on food banks and kids are hungry. We need to ensure everyone gets a good meal … feeding the soul in so many ways. Everyone is walking around with a mask on and all we can see are sad eyes. We must loudly say a good day, wave to little kids in strollers and wagons as their parents are taking them out for a walk … those acts are free…”

“For those of us who can give to such as Second Harvest, do so to help in any way we can, we need to act today, so that all have full tummies and fuel to carry on.”

“Since 2004, I have enjoyed attending Toronto Taste, a great gala event that celebrates local chefs and restaurants and good food, while giving back to Second Harvest. This means they can continue their venture to help feed the hungry. At this time, I feel compelled to donate to Second Harvest until we can meet again at Toronto Taste, maybe in June 2022.”

Honouring teams of fundraising holiday heroes this season

Second Harvest is honoured to be powered by thousands of dedicated volunteers whose fundraising efforts help us provide hunger relief across the country. One story of good deeds from a team of holiday heroes, in particular, deserves sharing. 

Michele Alphonso-Rombos has led the TeraLife team at Teranet Inc. in their fundraising efforts for the Second Harvest Hero campaign since 2014. During her time leading the team, they have raised a combined $83,282! 

Teranet had a successful fundraising campaign this year, in addition to their traditional fundraising efforts, raising $9,566 (22,776 meals). They fundraised through donation drives, payroll deduction donations and Teranet’s very popular casual Friday lunches. These lunches feature local and staff-recommended eats across Downtown Toronto—and further showcase their support of the community. TeraLife previously volunteered for food sorts and for the Feeding Our Future program. Michele and her TeraLife team engage with many aspects of Second Harvest’s mission.

At the onset of the pandemic, and as part of our community, Teranet understood that even with all the support coming from our local, provincial, and federal governments, the number of vulnerable people facing new hardship was growing every day.  They recognized the impact of the situation over food bank inventory and as such, in addition to their employees fundraising activities they donated $5,000. These funds help Second Harvest better respond to the increased demand for food support in Canadian communities during COVID-19.

Holiday heroes on a mission to zero food waste—and hunger relief

Celebrating our holiday heroes this winter
Co-founder of Road to Zero Waste, Laylo Atakhodjaeva. Photo by Haweya Fadal/CBC

Organizations that are dedicated to supporting people in need across Canada are dependent on volunteers to keep their doors open. One organization in Toronto, Ontario that we work with regularly is Road to Zero Waste. This grassroots organization is aligned with our combined missions of reducing food waste and eradicating food insecurity. They focus their work on communities in the Greater Toronto Area. 

Our holiday hero is the co-founder of the Road to Zero Waste non-profit, Laylo Atakhodjaeva. She comes to Second Harvest’s food rescue warehouse regularly to pick up good, surplus food from donors. She then distributes it to community fridges around the city. These community fridges are strategically located in low-income areas.

“Whoever is in need, like low-income families who are struggling, can just go and open the fridge 24/7 and enjoy nutritious, good quality food,” Laylo explained in a CBC interview. On each fridge is a hand-written sign that says it all: “Take what you need, share with others.”

Helping raise funds for nutritious meals 

Good, nourishing food is essential for a child’s development. But many children in communities across Canada are living in food-insecure households. This story sheds light on many holiday heroes who are helping bring nutritious foods to kids in need. 

In 2010, George Weston Limited launched a national employee engagement program which raises funds and provides volunteer support for charitable organizations that help children lead healthy and active lives outside of school. 

Second Harvest has been a grateful partner and beneficiary of this campaign for half a decade, which seems employees at Weston bakeries and offices across the country participating in support of organizations in their local communities. Fundraising events for Weston Seeding Stronger Communities span from gala dinners to truck pulls and employee donation matches.

This year, just in time to help us meet the holiday hunger gap, together Weston Foods and George Weston Limited raised $149,697 in 2020—enough to provide an incredible 356,371 nutritious meals for people experiencing hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic!

Holiday heroes
Weston Foods fundraising for a good cause

Essential health safety donations from our corporate holiday heroes

Second Harvest—and its partners—run on generous donations across the country. While most of our donations are food- or monetary-related, there have been ongoing donations of PPE for our essential workers. Last month, a new corporate donor generously gifted Second Harvest with 40 million masks that are currently being distributed to non-profits small and large across Ontario by our fleet of vehicles, and with the support of Uber Freight.

Holiday heroes
Rhema Christian Ministries of Toronto, happily receives product this past week.

Second Harvest partner, Homeland Mission on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, was a grateful recipient of an unexpected, yet essential gift. Homeland Mission is a non-profit organization that, like Second Harvest, is dedicated to minimizing hunger and food waste. Every year, the organization brings thousands of pounds of food from Toronto to Manitoulin Island and distributes it among the local island community. 

Holiday heroes

We spoke with Homeland Mission to learn how this donation supports their essential work among the community during the pandemic. 

“Because we were able to receive all of these masks, the Rainbow District School Board is allowing us to pass out the masks to every student in all local schools in the Manitoulin District. That means every student will receive a box of masks to take home as well as have access to them if they forgot to bring theirs to school. We’re so thankful!”

Thank you to all of our holiday heroes (year-round). You help Second Harvest provide hunger relief and reduce food waste across Canada.  

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