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Volunteers ready to reach out to Toronto’s homeless

This is the 16th year Sonia Facchini has helped organize a Christmastime clothing and food drive.

And this year’s, she says, carries with it a special urgency.

“A lot of people are down and out,” Facchini said Tuesday. “Our economy is not really good right now and we need to pull together as a family and as a community and help those who need it.

“There’s a lot of us that are fortunate enough to have jobs and family and clothes on our back and food on our table, and then there’s a lot of people that don’t have that.”

Facchini and about 100 friends from St. Padre Pio Catholic Church parish will be paying visits to the Good Shepherd Centre and the Fred Victor Centre in downtown Toronto Saturday.

They’ll bring 250 bagged lunches with them to the shelters, along with donated clothing and some of the non-perishable food items they’ve collected. The group will also be giving some non-perishable food to the Vaughan Food Bank.

“Because we got such an overwhelming response from the community in Woodbridge, we had to store all the clothes that were donated,” Facchini said. “There was such an enormous amount.”

The response has been so good, she said, that her parish group is able to help three organizations this year.

On Friday night, volunteers will gather to make the bagged lunches — about 100 more than they made last year — to be given to the homeless.

But they’ll do more than just hand out food, Facchini said.

“We’re also going to be helping in the shelter,” she said. “Some of the kids will be making some beds, helping in the soup kitchen and the rest of the group will be walking the streets of Toronto distributing the food and the clothing to anyone who needs it.”

It’s not uncommon for some volunteers to leave the shelter in tears, Facchini said, because they’re overwhelmed by the connections they’ve made to the people they’ve helped.

“Everyone should be treated with respect,” she said. “No matter whether we’re homeless, rich, poor, fat, skinny — doesn’t matter. Everyone should be treated with common courtesy and respect.”

Though she’s been at it for 16 years and started the initiative in three different church parishes, Facchini says she’s not about to slow down anytime soon, or ever.

“As long as I’m around, I’m going to continue to do it every year,” she said. “Our thing is a small gesture, but it means a lot to us to do.”

Vaughan Today
Online: December 11, 2008 [link]