Editorials

Editorial: Grass-roots organizations toil in the trenches of urban poverty

Sun Youth’s Sid Stevens and The Senior Times go hand in hand. (Photo: Nicholas Carpentier)

Sun Youth’s Sid Stevens and The Senior Times go hand in hand. (Photo: Nicholas Carpentier)

Poverty can be a cruel and painful condition, especially when the have-nots are bombarded by the buy! buy! buy! messages of our Black Friday/Cyber Monday consumer society.

Try to imagine raising a family as a minimum-wage worker and paying for rent, food, clothing, medication and school supplies on $406 a week. Or picture yourself as a newly arrived refugee or immigrant trying to get by in the land of plenty as you face discrimination in the search for a job. With 294,000 Quebecers unemployed in October (6.7 per cent), competition can be fierce and future prospects for all are dim.

Until we move to a guaranteed minimum income, thousands will become dependent on the safety net of social welfare, various government supplements based on a means test, and the voluntary organizations that are there to lend a helping hand. That is where those of use who are more fortunate can play a huge role in sharing our resources and love with our neighbours.

Three organizations in particular have The Senior Times’ support because they started as grass-roots vehicles, are no-frills, cost-effective outfits, and do great work that others may neglect.

Generations Foundation was launched by Adrian Bercovici, after a tenure of eight years at the Old Brewery Mission, and is run with his wife, Nathalie, and an army of “angels.” They serve hot meals and snacks to 7,700 students at 96 public schools and learning centres. Teachers and principals have noted higher attention levels in class, better academic results, less absenteeism, tardiness and anti-social behaviour, Bercovici reports. In the summer, Generations sends children from disadvantaged families to Camp Amy Molson and Trails End Camp. And in this season, it hopes to distribute 5,000 wrapped toys and other gifts so these children can share the holiday joy.

Sun Youth, created by Sid Stevens and Earl De La Perralle, does tremendous work year round, providing food baskets to 2,400 families each month. It also provides emergency assistance, a clothing bank, and help with electricity and heating costs in winter.

If you are truly in need, they will do everything possible to help out, as they have done since creating the city’s first food bank in 1981. Among those who have contributed are actor Paul Newman, through his Newman’s Own brand of sauces and dressings.

It offers access to dental care twice a year at its headquarters at the old Baron Byng High School building on St. Urbain. Students—supervised by teachers—provide cleanings, fillings, extractions and minor surgeries free of charge. Low-income people can obtain free or reduced-rate eyeglasses, thanks to a grant from Essilor, a leading manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses. Sun Youth will loan an apparatus to counter bedwetting to poor families, thanks to an arrangement with Ledoux-Reflexe of Brossard. You can’t put a dollar figure on the value of these types of assistance.

Judy Stevens and sister-in-law Linda Hodes launched Share the Warmth in 1989 to collect clothes and food for the homeless. It evolved into a food bank and a school food program and distributes healthy snacks to 2,700 students each week.

That was followed by creation of a youth group for 40 children in foster care. Tutoring, scholarship and music programs have been set up to help increase success rates at school.

By virtue of their achievements and good governance, these organizations deserve your volunteer participation and/or financial contribution. Happy holidays to all.

Generations Foundation: 4210 Notre Dame W. 514-933-8585, generationsfoundation.com

Sun Youth: 4251 St. Urbain, 514-842-6822, sunyouthorg.com

Share the Warmth: 625 Fortune, 514-933-5599, sharethewarmth.ca

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