Thursday, 21 December 2017

Knights Table Pushes 'Adopt a Family' Initiative for the Holidays

By Neil Armstrong

An organization that has served the needs of people dealing with issues of poverty and homelessness in the Peel Region for over 26 years wants individuals to adopt a family over the holiday season.

For the past ten years, Knights Table has been engaging sponsors with its “Adopt a Family this holiday season” initiative.

The organization will provide the sponsor with a brief background and profile of the family (for example, a single mother and two kids), a grocery shopping list, and wish list of gifts for the children.

The sponsor can request the family size/makeup that they are willing to support and can provide the funds for Knights Table to purchase the food and gifts for the adopted family, or the sponsor can “enjoy the experience to purchase the food and ‘wish list gifts’ for their family on their own.”

Lena Shaw, volunteer and outreach manager, said people told Knights Table this is what they wanted to do and Knights Table had to come up with a plan for it.

“We know on average how much it costs because we normally give our clients weekly food. So, in the month of December, because we close the food bank, that’s when we give them a month’s worth of groceries. It carries them into January until we open the food bank again.”

Shaw says they calculate what a month’s worth of grocery is and for a mother of two, it’s roughly $600.

Supported by a staff of nine and over 3,200 volunteers who are committed to assisting people who come through its doors, Knights Table says they assist the clients regardless of colour, culture, religion, economic status, gender, sexual orientation or social condition. 

“During the interview process when our clients are sitting down with the operations manager, they need to give us proof of I.D., proof of address and rental agreement,” says Shaw.

In terms of number of racialized people served by the organization, Shaw says sometimes when she does intakes one out of every two falls in that category.

She said someone who is homeless does not have access to the food bank because a person needs to have a kitchen to cook. Knights Table is open every day for the homeless.  

“People who are living in a basement apartment or even a storey in a house, whatever, as long as they have access to a kitchen then they have access to our food bank and our holiday hamper.”

The people who qualify for their services are on Ontario Works, on Ontario Disability and part of the working poor families – they’re making less than $22,000 per year. 

Knights Table is supported by various levels of government, businesses, charitable foundations, groups, churches and individuals. 

“With their assistance they make it possible for our doors to remain open to serve over 74,000 meals annually,” it says.

St. Marguerite d'Youville church adopts twenty families annually and sometimes corporation say they will handle one, or sometimes wealthy families want to teach their kids about sharing the wealth and will sponsor families, Shaw says.

She says sponsored families are “thrilled and overjoyed.”

“The love and passion that people put in their hampers is incredible. They go above and beyond. We basically will say just three gifts. We figured they would want pajamas, here’s a pair of boots, it’s not a gift, it’s not a toy, I know, they go above and beyond in giving so the families are just overjoyed by the gestures of love.”

Knights Table is dedicated to inspiring people to achieve their full potential. 

It helps by providing food bank, hot meals and other services to the people of Brampton who deal with the daily issues of hunger, poverty and homelessness.

Forty-three per cent of its clients self report a physical disability, mental illness affects more than 23% of its client group, and over 26% are homeless.

Shaw says on a weekly basis clients come in to get their groceries from the food bank but in the month of December the food bank “becomes the holiday hamper because it’s one month of groceries, they also get a turkey with all its fixings and each child’s gift to open on Christmas morning.”

That’s what they do for their clients but when a corporation or a church says they want to adopt a family, Knights Table gives them a list of the groceries and the family’s wish list.

They also arrange a day and time for both parties to meet if they want to do so.

 “My belief is that we are born to serve and there’s something innate in us that we need to open up our heart and give – there’s something inside. When we see a need we seek to fulfill it and Knights Table is a great place for you to do that,” says Shaw about the reason people should volunteer there.

The volunteer and outreach manager said volunteers must be 16 years and older, and during December the organization is aggressively looking for groups of ten to come in during the evenings (6-9pm) to help with the holiday hampers.

“Not everybody gets adopted out because we have over a thousand families who are counting on us so we need groups of ten to come and volunteer,” she said, noting that such groups make an impact.

[This story has been published in the NA Weekly Gleaner, Dec. 21-27, 2017.]

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