Fund-raising campaigns for the United Way are currently taking place across the city. The ones involving food always get my attention and today was no exception. Deep below ground, subway staffers were selling piping hot pizza for $1 a slice.
It’s a great idea, believe it or not. The tantalizing aroma of baked cheese and pepperoni on a thick crust lures you off your train or onto the platform. Unfortunately, that’s where the pizza scent mingles with the metallic tang wafting up from the subway tracks.
This probably doesn’t sound appetizing, but when you’re tired and hungry after a long day, those slices could have a topping of toenails and still attract customers. (Fresh toenails only, of course.)
As I passed their tables today, however, I was on my way to dinner. So instead of buying a slice, I contributed to the donation jar nestled among the pizza boxes.
Then I tried to think of a way to “gift” an actual slice but people were coming and going so quickly there didn’t seem to be a window of opportunity.
Then I saw them – a row of pay phones. I hadn’t tried slipping coins into return slots for a while (to surprise the next caller) so this was my chance. I put a $1 coin into the return slot of one phone thinking someone might find it, then buy a slice. And, if they did, that would “pay it forward” in support of the United Way. (I know, a bit of a stretch but, hey, a girl can dream.)
I decided to check out a few facts about the United Way when I got home and here’s what I found out:
The bad news: One in four Toronto families struggle with poverty.
The good news: The United Way focuses on three priority areas:
1) Strengthening neighbourhoods
2) Creating opportunities for youth
3) Helping to fulfill the potential of newcomers
Then I came across this story, which seemed to fill the bill for all three. I found it inspiring, I hope you do too:
The little neighbourhood that could
How a simple game of cricket is creating positive change in Scarborough
It’s shocking but true. United Way research* shows that the number of high poverty neighbourhoods in Toronto jumped from 30 in 1981 to 120 in 2001. The majority of these neighbourhoods are located in the inner suburbs where social services and infrastructure are sorely lacking. One such neighbourhood is Scarborough Village.
“I truly believe in this neighbourhood,” says Tully Ghanny, a local resident who moved to Canada from Ghuyana 30 years ago. Tully now leads the Scarborough Village Cricket Club — a social and recreational venture made possible by Action for Neighbourhood Change (ANC), a United Way initiative that is based the idea that strong neighbourhoods are those where local residents take leadership and responsibility for their community. Funding for the cricket equipment was secured and ANC connected residents with Parks and Recreation to obtain permits for use of the city park. Now kids from diverse backgrounds — Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Afghani, West Indian — come together to play a sport that not only has cultural resonance for them but also teaches skills such as teamwork, discipline and leadership.
Parents watch their children play from the sidelines, sharing laughs and personal stories. With positive connections like this being made, it’s not long before residents start believing in the possibilities for their community.
With your continued support of United Way, neighbourhoods like Scarborough Village and residents like Tully Ghanny will continue to experience positive change.