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In This Edition

  • FYFB selected as top pick by Charity Intelligence Canada for 4th year in a row
  • FYFB's Mike Schoonheyt celebrates 10th anniversary as Program Manager
  • A look back at ET Canada's inspiring FYFB renovation one year later
  • Monster Jam crushes hunger in support of FYFB
  • New Year's Eve Midnite Run legs it out for FYFB
  • Funds and fun for FYFB thanks to HOPE Volleyball tournaments
  • Holiday hampers and lunches

What's Happening @ FYFB

FYFB a Top Pick by Charity Intelligence Canada

Charity Intelligence has selected FYFB as one of its Top Picks for the 4th year in a row. FYFB was one of 45 charities chosen from across Canada, including one of two food banks in Toronto. Charity Intelligence does research and analysis on Canadian charities to help donors make informed and intelligent giving decisions that can have the greatest impact for Canada. In its Top Picks reports, it analyzes charities across a number of metrics, including financial metrics, management strength, and social results.

"We're honoured to have been recognized again by Charity Intelligence," said Ravi Sreedharan, a founder of FYFB and President of the Board of Directors. "FYFB is proud of its focus on delivering demonstrable results to the community with 95% of our donations going directly towards program delivery. Charity Intelligence's independent research and analysis is important for donors looking to make their dollars count. We hope this will help us maintain a sustainable base of funding to support our operations."

Mike Schoonheyt celebrates 10th anniversary

He started as a client of FYFB in 2000, then transitioned into a three-day-a-week volunteer for more than a year before becoming an FYFB employee on November 5, 2002. Mike Schoonheyt, FYFB's Program Manager and only employee, has now completed 10 years at the helm of the storefront operation which serves a large swath of downtown Toronto. Mike looks back on his first past decade in this edited interview transcript.

What was FYFB like when you started the job?
"I was just as much a volunteer as program coordinator. Tuesdays was eight hours upstairs and then I did four hours of interviewing downstairs... it gave me training, but we had some long days and it was quite a challenge."

What did you focus on first?
"In the beginning, it was strictly survival; you have to understand you can't keep people waiting too long. If people are not happy you cannot form relationships. So my first goal was to speed up the (food distribution) process - make people comfortable that there's a certain tempo they can count on when they come through; then we can start to build up the relationships. We've become experts at processing and moving the food along as well as splitting it up to be as fair as we can. We're very high volume and all the feedback tells us our three-day hampers are pretty good."

What are your current duties?
"To try to build relationships with clients, one by one over time; take them in as clients, (and then) bring them in as volunteers. This gets them ready and used to being on time and to be responsible. They feel part of something... and (then) I begin to form relationships, as this is the way you help somebody. If you're phony and you can't communicate or you won't listen to them, you're not going to get anywhere."

What are the challenges forming relationships?
"By the time people use us, they're -- I hate this term -- sort of damaged goods and it's going to take a while. If you dig a hole straight down and you want to get out, it takes a lot more digging, on a slant, to get out. This applies to anyone's life. We're happy just to form relationships and get people at least started in the right direction while supporting them as they go along. Whoever comes across my path as a client, volunteer, student, etc. I will help. I take the time on the telephone when they first call. We take the time when they're freaked out about going to a food bank for the first time, so these little things make a big difference. You just have to have patience and relatively good communication skills; this will get you very far. I've never underestimated the ability of our clients to pick up on insincerity, so you have to really want to help."

What's the most difficult part of the job?
"My number one rule is (good) behaviour and respect for each other, both for clients and volunteers... The dignity of the individual is very important, but at the same time (sometimes) these individuals are the ones that are causing the most problems and they need us the most. So it's always a balancing act between that dignity of the individual, having patience, and keeping it a comfortable and safe place for the majority of our clients and the individual."

What do you remember most about your time at FYFB?
"The things that stick out in my mind are mostly little victories. Keeping people working together, keeping us light without being too serious, trying to have some fun while we're working. You know, we're all immersed in a lot of negativity so you have to kind of have fun, you have to let the little things go. The little victories really mean a lot to me... anybody I've helped in any significant way, when they thank me, when I see them thriving and improving from being a difficult client to a really good volunteer, for example, I love that. Garnering employment for our placement students (especially the first one) also sticks out to me."

A look back at the transformation of the FYFB kitchen by ET Canada and friends

The timeline was tight, the project was challenging, the budget was small, but the heart of the volunteers and donors was huge. Over one crazy, sleep-starved weekend last December, volunteers and corporate donors stepped up to transform FYFB's kitchen -- and a lot more besides -- into a positive space with increased capacity to fulfill FYFB's mission to feed the hungry, all arranged for an "ET Gives Back" segment by Global Television's ET Canada and with help from a $15,000 donation by Global TV's parent, Shaw Communications.

FYFB. transformation of the FYFB kitchen by ET Canada and friendsFrom left to right: contractor Ron Foley, designer Penny Southam, former ET Canada host Kim D'Eon and producer Sholeh Fabbri. Picture courtesy Shaw Communications.

Former ET Canada host Kim D'Eon and producer Sholeh Fabbri spurred the project, selecting FYFB as an appropriate recipient for a kitchen overhaul. "This place is special," D'Eon wrote of FYFB at the time. "On top of serving about 200 hot meals each day, they provide groceries, skills coaching, as well as clothes and other donations. There is only ONE paid staff member. The rest are volunteers."

However, ET Canada's an entertainment show, not one experienced at taking on a large-scale renovation that had to be completed in the short time between FYFB's closing on Saturday afternoon and its reopening on Tuesday morning, noted Fabbri.

Fabbri quickly secured the volunteer services of designer Penny Southam, the host of All or Nothing? on the W Network. "Penny doesn't even live in Toronto, she lives in Ottawa," said Fabbri. "She flew down to do this, that's how amazing she is."

The challenge for Southam was to redesign FYFB's space without knowing what supplies they would have to use. But she was determined not only to improve the functionality and safety of the FYFB kitchen and storage areas, but also to brighten up the overall environment for clients and volunteers.

"Space creates a certain feeling in a person, it evokes an emotion," explained Southam, owner of Southam Design. "And to have it be positive, it's great that I could add that to somebody's day."

Meanwhile, FYFB Director Chris Murphy solicited the help of general contractor Ron Foley. "Chris called me up and said, ‘We've got this thing going on. You'll be working for free and you'll be working like three days straight with no sleep and our budget is zero, so are you in?'" recalled Foley. "And I said 100%. It was the sleep depravity that really sold it for me." Unfortunately for Foley, an expected weekend of hard work over long days turned into one of long days and long nights. After tearing down the walls, the contractor encountered major electrical and plumbing problems that would have to be repaired, with the assistance of tradesmen Paulo Dasilva, owner of AC and C Electric, and Mohamed Morbi of Phoenix Plumbing.

All involved marvel at Foley's and his team's dedication, as they worked literally days straight without sleep. Foley himself is surprised he wasn't as tired as he should have been, but noted he was constantly assisted by incoming volunteers, whether from Shaw Communications, the owner of Global TV, or friends of FYFB and especially members of the Toronto Professional Firefighters' Association.

Corporate donors provided necessary supplies, including backsplash tile from Stone Tile, appliances from Future Shop, and millwork and stainless steel cabinetry from Robert Design Group, with whom Foley now works.

"To see the end result, to see it transformed the way it was, it was truly a team effort to make that happen," said Southam. "If I were ever asked to do it again, absolutely, I wouldn't even hesitate."

Foley and Fabbri agree.

"It was probably one of the best things I've ever done," said Foley.

"I can honestly say... the Fort York (Food Bank) renovation is probably one of the best things I've done in my career," added Fabri. "I actually felt like it made a difference, it was amazing. It was really nice to use the power of television to make a difference."

For Murphy, the impact is measurable. "We've doubled our output capability in terms of what we can cook, there's more storage, it's a more organized space, there's greater refrigeration, we improved all the wiring to makie it a safer environment for the volunteers to work in," he explained. "It's cleaner, safer, something to be more proud of, it's enhanced morale in a big way."

"Thank you," Murphy said was his a message to the volunteers and donors. "FYFB's always been a volunteer-driven organization and without them it wouldn't have been possible to get the renovation done."

Monster Jam Crushes Hunger for FYFB

FYFB received almost 1,400 pounds of food items from the generous fans of the Maple Leaf Monster Jam Tour, who, along with media from CP24 and CityTV, came out on a grey day to snap a pic of Canadian Monster Jam star Cam McQueen and his world champion truck Northern Nightmare in front of Rogers Centre just before Thanksgiving. Donors providing five food items or more as well as FYFB volunteers were lucky enough to receive free tickets to a Monster Jam Tour stop, including at the Rogers Centre on January 19 and 20.

"An incredible amount of donations was raised for FYFB by the Maple Leaf Monster Jam Tour's Crush Hunger food drive," said FYFB Director Tim Foran. "I want to thank the Tour, Cam McQueen, and especially Beth Merrick, the owner of Zazou Communications and Zazou employee Stephanie Kelly for choosing to partner with FYFB. We're hopeful this can become an annual affair."

FYFB. Maple Leaf Monster Jam Tour supports FYFB
FYFB volunteers pose with Maple Leaf Monster Jam Tour driver Cam McQueen, far right, and his monster truck Northern Nightmare at the Tour's Crush Hunger event at Rogers Centre, benefiting FYFB. Photo courtesy of Michelle Prata Photography.

Holiday Hampers and Lunches

The Holiday/Christmas season is an especially trying time for families using FYFB services. FYFB's clients survive, on average, with approximately $3 per day after paying for their occupancy-related expenses and many clients need to use FYFB's services repeatedly within any given month and over the year. In the week prior to Christmas, FYFB volunteers prepare turkey lunches and distribute items to supplement normal food baskets. Components of our special baskets include turkeys for families, chicken for singles, extra eggs/milk, cheese, oil, personal hygiene kits and toys for children. FYFB expects to assist 850 people with this Christmas/Holiday program. Financial support for these activities is provided by CP24 Chum Christmas Wish, Traffikgroup and many other partners. However, FYFB welcomes donations to its Holiday Fund to help it deliver an even better basket this year.

New Year's Midnite Run to benefit FYFB

If you're looking to try something different this New Year's Eve, how about ringing it in with hundreds of fellow runners with a 5K run through Liberty Village on the stroke of midnight followed by a post-race party to celebrate 2013? FYFB is fortunate to again be the recipient of proceeds from the unique and second annual Toronto Midnite New Year's Even Run (and Party!). Reid Coolsaet, who competed for Canada in the London 2012 Olympic marathon, won last year's inagural event in a scorching 17:32. More leisurely runners took more than twice as long. And for those on hand just to party, safe to say they went well past midnight!

Volleyball provides Hope, and donations, for FYFB

FYFB has been honoured once again to be one of two charities to receive donations generated by HOPE Volleyball. The charity will hold two major tournaments in 2013, including its 25th anniversary event at Toronto Centre Island, which is targeted to have attendance of 6,000 people and 500 teams.

HOPE's 6th Annual Winter Indoor Tournament (in which FYFB won the recreation division last year!) will take place Sat. March 2, 2013 at BeachBlast. HOPE's 25th Annual Charity Volleyball Bash will take place in June 2013.

"This is a very large charity event and we're honoured to again be receiving a share of the proceeds" said FYFB Director Ravi Sreedharan. "What we need from the FYFB community is for people to start getting teams together, of friends or work colleagues, to participate in the tournaments, as well as any donations that could be used as prizes for HOPE's silent auction."

Further information on HOPE and pictures of the event can be found on HOPE's website at hopevolleyball.com.

Upcoming Events

Monday December 31 Midnite Run Toronto
Saturday March 2 2013 HOPE Indoor Volleyball tournament. Full details click here
June 2013 HOPE Volleyball tournament on Toronto Island. Full details click here

Ways to Get Involved at FYFB

Do you know someone who'd be interested in the great work FYFB does? Tell them about us by clicking here or participate in one of the events posted at fyfb.com/events.

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