About 10 years ago, I interviewed a gentleman on my podcast by the name of Alex Smirnus.
Alex had a dream in which he and his wife, Grace, were driving around the city delivering coffee, sandwiches, blankets and words of encouragement to Toronto’s most vulnerable.
Alex realized his dream when he started City Street Outreach. 10 years later, City Street Outreach has turned into a local outreach program that is a 100 percent volunteer-run, donation- based and all-inclusive registered charity providing food, clothing and assistance to those in need and/ or living in poverty across the greater Toronto area.
On average, City Street Outreach feeds over 4000 hungry mouths every week.
There are more than 50 volunteers and 15 community outreach/ low-income housing locations.
Over 6000 pounds of food are rescued on a weekly basis.
Companies like Costco, Tim Horton’s, Sleep Country Canada, Little Caesar’s Pizza, Second Harvest, Just Socks Foundation, Socks for Souls, Freedom Pet Supplies have all come on board to help those in need.
Recently, Sleep Country Canada joined the cause and donated beds to some of our many vulnerable friends who are sleeping on floors.
On a number of occasions, we have dropped off furniture to people who are fortunate to get some form of subsidized housing but do not have a stick of furniture in their apartments.
Donated beds go quickly and this generous offering from Sleep Country Canada has a huge impact. Again, this comes down to people like Alex and Grace and volunteers like Louise who work to establish relationships with individuals and businesses in our community in hopes that they can help.
After my interview with Alex so many years ago, I became inspired to join City Street Outreach as a volunteer. Once a week, I would join the other volunteers just outside City Hall and help to hand out sandwiches, coffee and clothing to those less fortunate.
I graduated to picking up bread from local bakeries, like the incredible COB’s bakery, to donate to various locations.
I was also thrilled to take on the pet portfolio. Sean and friends at Freedom Pet Foods started giving us dog and cat food every couple of months to help our most vulnerable four-legged friends. So many times, I would see our street friends feed their pets before they even fed themselves. Now we can help them both.
I’ve been so inspired by Alex and Grace that earlier this year, I put together a comedy fundraiser with my very funny friends, Martha Chaves, Evan Carter and Cathy Boyd. My good pal Linda McEwan from Sotheby’s sponsored the event and my wonderful friend Elaine Lindsay from Trool Social was kind enough to handle the social media. The evening was a great success and every penny went to City Street Outreach.
Speaking of help, family, friends, neighbors and strangers have come together over the years to donate money, time, clothing, food, small household items, furniture (i.e., basically anything that I can fit into my car) to City Street Outreach. I am eternally grateful for their generosity.
People always ask me, “How can I help?”
Here are a few suggestions if you feel inclined…
- You can make a donation via the website. Again, City Street Outreach is 100 % volunteer based.
- You can come volunteer with us!
- You can buy Tim Horton’s cards for 10 dollars each. Hand them out to our street friends who are in need. These cards are invaluable to our friends, as they can get they get a sandwich or a coffee, and some warmth and comfort, if only temporarily.
- Share some kindness and respect. For our less fortunate friends, there is dignity in feeling like they are part of the clan because, sadly, they are often treated like they are not.
Over the past ten years, City Street Outreach has grown to be an absolute lifeline for so many.
It wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of its two founders, Alex and Grace,
two humble people with full time jobs who have made it their mission to be out on the streets of Toronto countless nights a week, helping others. They have inspired many.
They are angels and I am not the first person to say that.
Even some of my most skeptical comedic friends have met them and said the same thing.
Each and every day Alex and Grace quietly make it their mission to serve.
Good people (with great senses of humour, I may add) who are doing amazing things for those less fortunate.
I think I have become a better person just by knowing them.
If you would like to catch up on any of my other Laugh Long and Prosper episodes, voted one of the best podcasts of 2021 in Canada by CTV, check me out.
Until next time folks, Laugh Long and Prosper!