Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre: Fostering the development of a healthy, caring community in all of its diversity.
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Share Christmas Sponsor-a-Family Program

Background

Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre, (BBNC) is a non profit agency, Charitable Number 107842452RR0001.  BBNC's Share Christmas - Sponsor-a-Family program was founded in 1992, operating out of the City-run facility at 93 Birchmount Rd. in southwest Scarborough, Ontario.  It has grown from assisting approximately 10 families at the onset, to 350 families in 2009.

The foundation of the program is based on families in need being sponsored" by the community.  The program receives no program funding as it is run entirely on donations.  The number of families sponsored each year depends on the number of sponsors and donations.  Each family applying for the program is interviewed and their needs are assessed.  Even though the program is called "Share Christmas", it is open to people of all religious denominations.

The program works in partnership with:

  • Chum/CP24 Christmas Wish: BBNC is the recipient of toys and donations collected by the Christmas Wish, which are distributed to the recipient families.
  • City of Toronto Christmas Bureau: BBNC, along with other agencies, use the Christmas Bureau to ensure that families are receiving assistance from only one agency.

The program provides hampers to assist families in need over the holiday season.  The hampers contain toys and books for children and food vouchers (to purchase fresh meat and produce).  We also try to provide a small surprise for the many seniors and something "cool" for the teenagers.  In many cases we also supply new winter clothing to families with extreme needs.  Our catchment area that runs from Lake Ontario to Eglinton, and from Victoria Park to McCowan, and includes many new immigrants and families living below the poverty line.  Education is lacking and unemployment is very high.  The area includes many working families who are having difficulty making ends meet, never mind having anything left over for something special during the holiday season.

The program operates with a myriad of volunteers and sponsors who donate time, food, toys, cash or participate in the Sponsor-a-Family program.

This bar graph shows the number of families, seniors, children, and the total number of people the Share Christmas program has helped between 2003 and 2010.  The number for each group has risen steadily each year, with the estimates being highest for 2010 (about 175 seniors, 400 families, 850 children and more than 1200 people in total).
Colored bar graph representing the number of seniors, children, families and people in total helped by BBNC's Share Christmas program from 2003 to present

Click here to check out a Global News video clip featuring BBNC's Share Christmas program.


Program Sponsors

We have individuals who have supported the program year after year. They know that they really make a difference.

We also have young families who want to sponsor a like-family, so they can have their children get involved.  What better way to teach your children to get involved in their community, helping people who are less fortunate?  Charity truly does start in the home.

Older family members have decided they simply don't need another new tie or a purse, so they have decided to get together to sponsor a family in whose life they can make a profound difference.

Corporate groups are huge supporters of the program.  This is not necessarily head office writing a cheque, although we do appreciate this, but department members getting together.  Many groups have told us they no longer participate in "Secret Santa", (who needs another coffee mug or candle), but they still share in the celebration of the season by sponsoring a family.

Schools and churches collect food, hygiene and cleaning products that are distributed to the family hampers.

If you'd like to sponsor a person or family, please click here to read our FAQ page for more info.  You can also click here to see BBNC's SHARE Christmas brochure.


How do we define a family?

Answer: Many types of families apply for the program.  They are defined as people living at the same address and include:

  • Traditional Family consisting of 2 parents and children
  • Single-Parent Family with children
  • Extended Families consisting of grandparents and children and/or parents
  • Seniors either living on their own or together
  • Adults living with disabilities.

How are families selected for assistance?

Answer: The decision to sponsor a family is based on need, compared to all the families that apply.  Therefore the selection decision occurs after all families have been interviewed.  It is not on a first-come-first-serve basis.  The number of families sponsored each year depends on the number of sponsors and donations.


Supporting The Program

There are many ways to support the program:


Sponsor A Family

Over 350 families will require help this year.  The size and composition of the family will depend on you and your group.  If you are a young family, you may want to request a family with a similar composition to yours.  If you are a large department of people, you may want to request a large family or multiple families.  Each family is interviewed, so you will be provided with their Santa list, including clothing sizes.  You will notice that family requests are very modest, as we focus on the basics.  Regardless of the size of the family you sponsor, the following commitment must be made:

  1. Food Vouchers

    These will be included in the family hampers to allow them to buy fresh produce, dairy and meat, and the voucher amount is not meant to be just enough for one day.  The food voucher amounts vary based on the size of the family and range from $60 to $300.

    We suggest No Frills vouchers, as this is the most convenient store in the area for our families.  They can be purchased at Loblaws, Fortino's or No Frills.

    If you want a tax receipt, instead of buying the food vouchers give us a cheque and we will buy the vouchers for you, using our bulk discount, which benefits us all.  We can also issue individual tax receipts if you have a group donating.  All tax receipts will be mailed by late January.

  2. Food, Personal Hygiene Items and Household Cleansers

    Basically any nonperishable food is perfect for the hampers.  There can never be too much food.  The number of boxes of food supplied depends on the size of the family.  A basic rule of thumb is a minimum of 2 boxes, and an additional box for each person in the family.  Therefore a family of 3 would have 4 boxes of food.

    Hygiene products are very expensive for our families, and as a result, they quite often go without.  Significant importance is placed on toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, tampons, sanitary napkins, shaving supplies and toilet paper.  Other items include shampoo, creme rinse, body soap, hand soap, baby powder, shampoo and soap, mouthwash and Kleenex.

    Household cleaning products would include items such as dish soap, laundry soap, fabric softener sheets, paper towels, glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner, bleach and all-purpose cleaner.

  3. One Book and One Gift For Each Child

    The gift could be a toy or clothing.  Where possible, we have tried to indicate what type of book the child is interested in.  Please make sure the age-appropriate book is included...we are really trying to advocate literacy.

If you are interested in participating in the Sponsor-a-Family Program, please click here to read our FAQ page for more info.  Please contact the Share Christmas coordinator, Judy Foremski, at judy@bbnc.ca.


How do families receive assistance?

Answer: This is a self-referral program.  Families requiring assistance and living in the catchment area, (defined above), apply in person to the Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre at 93 Birchmount Road, Scarborough, Ontario.  The dates for registration are October 12 to October 15 and October 18, from 9:30am to 12:30pm and from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.  The following documentation is required during the interview process:

  1. Identification for each family member
  2. Proof of address (a current utility bill would show this)
  3. Proof of Income, which may include:
    • Current pay stub
    • Current Employment Insurance stub
    • Current Ontario Works (OW) payment stub: the portion listing all dependents must be included
    • Current Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payment stub
    • Child Tax Credit info, if there are children in the family.
  4. Proof of rent paid each month.

Volunteer Some Time

An hour here, an hour there...it all adds up.  Last year over 4,000 hours were volunteered to the program.  This does not include the sponsors' time that is spent on shopping and packing their hampers to bring them to the centre.  As you can see, we need all the help we can get.  This is an excellent opportunity for seniors, high school students who need to earn their community service hours, families, or anyone who has some time on their hands.  Activities include:

  • Interviewing families
  • Picking up donations
  • Sorting and packing food
  • Follow-up phone calls to sponsors
  • Clerical work
  • Driving families home with their hampers.

We will be offering training sessions on various dates for a number of positions.  Currently, these are:

Tuesday, October 2 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm and Thursday, October 4 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm - SHARE Christmas Interviewer Training - you'll learn how to:

  • review updated forms
  • interview (by participating in mock interviews) and complete forms
  • understand the financial information to be collected.

Wednesday, October 24 from 1:30pm to 3:30pm - Practical Leadership Skills Workshop

  • Learn how to determine your leadership style and vision
  • Identify key leadership characteristics and those you would like to develop further
  • Understanding the different levels of motivation

Tuesday, November 6 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm - SHARE Christmas Packer/Sorter Training - you'll learn:

  • the process of receiving and distributing recipient packages
  • confidentiality
  • communication styles
  • brainstorming solutions to challenging situations

From Tuesday, October 9 to Friday, October 19 from 9:30am to 4:00pm volunteers are needed for our 20th Annual SHARE Christmas Family Interviews.  Volunteers are needed for a variety of opportunities during this time.  Please contact Linda Curley directly to offer assistance (see contact info below).  The tasks/positions needed are:

  • Interviewer
  • Intake
  • Photocopying
  • Lunch and Snack Prep
  • Computer input
  • And much more...

On Monday, October 15 SHARE Christmas Vignette Writing begins, and volunteers can do this on their own time.  Do you enjoy writing?  Would you like to use your skills to assist in the enhancement of life for families in need in our community?  Put your skills to great use by assisting in the writing of short recipient family bios to be distributed to sponsors.  Contact Linda to learn more about vignette writing (see below for contact info).

If you are interested in volunteering or plan to come to any of the training sessions, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator, Linda Curley, by phone at 416-396-7579 or by e-mail at lindac@bbnc.ca.  For more information about the Share Christmas program, click here to go to our Share Christmas page.


Donate A Cheque

The program always needs cash.  It is primarily used to purchase food vouchers or clothing for our families.  One hundred percent of all cash donations are used to help families during the holiday season and throughout the year.  As a charitable organization, we are able to provide income tax receipts for any cash donated.  All tax receipts will be mailed by late January.


Collect Items for the Hampers

Instead of hostess gifts, many sponsors will ask holiday guests to bring items that can be donated to the family hampers.  Popular items include food and hygiene supplies.  Once collected, they can be dropped off at the Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre any time after November 15, 2010.  Please make sure you leave your name and address so we can include you in our thank-you newsletter.


Drop Off Items for the Hampers

You can drop off food, toys, or hygiene or cleaning supplies any time you are in the building, after November 12, 2012.  Every item helps.  Bins will be set up in the lobby for this purpose.

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