The Outreach Committee at St. Thomas's comprises a large number of enthusiastic volunteers who provide a number of programs intended to serve both our local community and the larger global community.
One of our major projects is our meal program. Every Friday from May to November, we provide sandwiches, eggs and cheese, fruit and vegetables, desserts and hot drinks (and in cold weather, homemade soup) to about 75 homeless or marginally housed guests in our parish hall. This gathering is also an important social time and an opportunity for company and fellowship among our guests, and among guests and volunteers. We see this gathering as an important sharing of ourselves and our resources with others, and a core part of our attempt to live out our Christian vocation in an inner-city setting.
We can always use more volunteers! We need people who can make sandwiches at home and deliver them to the church, as well as people who can serve food and spend time with our guests. Our regular volunteers find it a very rewarding activity, and we'd love to involve new people as well. One group of volunteers meets at the church to prepare sandwiches every other Thursday afternoon; this is another way to be involved if you can't donate food or help out on Fridays.
We also provide our guests, as we are able, with toiletries, gloves, socks and warm clothing, and we are exploring ways to provide computer and internet access.
From December to April, we work with other parishes and faith groups in Parkdale Deanery to provide a weekly hot meal for the same community at St Stephen's in the Fields on College Street. In addition, the Outreach Program provides festive meals in St. Thomas's church hall every Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. These are especially well attended (100 people or more at each meal) and enjoyed by our guests.
Beginning in 2006, volunteers created a "city garden" on the church premises, which was highly successful in providing fresh vegetables to our guests, as well as creating green space in downtown Toronto (see the parish garden page for more information).
The Outreach Committee participates in various fundraisers to help meet the needs of the global community with events such as square dances and dinners. One of our longer term focuses is to assist in dealing with the AIDS pandemic in Africa; we have raised money for the PWRDF initiatives on HIV/AIDS, and also hosted a barbecue for some of the participants in the International AIDS Conference. We are currently looking into a fair trade coffee initiative to help ensure that the coffee growers in the developing world receive appropriate remuneration for their work.
We stay in close touch with the social justice and advocacy work undertaken by the Diocese of Toronto, and have participated actively in the diocesan housing advocacy activities, including visiting our MPP and sending letters on housing and poverty related issues. One of our members is involved in the diocesan working group on HIV/AIDS.
The Outreach Committee coordinates with other groups within the parish as well. For instance, the Church School has an annual fundraiser to raise money to buy livestock for families in the developing world. We also work with the Education Committee to bring in speakers who inform us of social needs in our communities and the attempts being made to address them.
If you are interested in more information on these programs or would like to participate in any way, please contact either Maggie Helwig 416.537.7290 maggie (at) web.net or Bill Thoms 416.482.1279 bill.thoms (at) senecac.on.ca.
If you want to help with the Thursday sandwich making, contact Natasha Klukach, natasha.klukash (at) utoronto.ca, 416 652 9662.