New Initiative Helping Get People ‘Out of the Cold’
While COVID-19 put a pause on many in-person service possibilities, the need for help from those more fortunate has remained and even grown.
Out of the Cold (OOTC) is one foundation that traces its roots back to 1987 and a group of St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) students inspired to support Toronto’s homeless. OOTC is an interfaith program that supports the less fortunate in our community with the basic physical needs of shelter, food, and warm clothing as well as the deeper human needs of compassion, dignity, and self-worth. The program was founded by Sr. Susan Moran, OLM, CM, OSM, who supported the chaplaincy at SMCS at the time.
“Our service initiatives with OOTC perfectly align with our school’s mission,” says Stephanie De Santis, theology teacher and co-organizer of the OOTC initiative at SMCS. “In a typical year, we would usually volunteer at All Saints Kingsway in Etobicoke, serving warm meals to those that need them.”
However, since the pandemic, volunteering in-person for OOTC and many other organizations hasn’t been possible due to closures and capacity restrictions.
“A representative at the church reached out to SMCS to see how the school and our students could still help out and gave us a list of the things they needed,” she says. “From there, we constructed kits to target these goals and ensure they get the items they need.”
The kits are broken down into three categories: warmth, PPE, and food. Students and staff who wish to donate are asked to purchase the items needed and assemble the kits, which are then donated through the OOTC program.
What goes into each kit?
|Warmth Kits||PPE Kits||Food Kits|
A prominent display with drop-off bins is located just inside the students’ entrance where all donations are being collected. In addition to the kits, community members are also invited to donate all kinds of gently used warm clothing, such as sweaters and hoodies, warm pants, and coats.
“I decided to participate in the OOTC initiative as it was a meaningful way to directly help those in need. Individuals who are at-risk members of society need these valuable supplies to survive,” says Delko Blazanin, Grade 11 SMCS student, who with the help of his brother, Ante in Grade 9, put together 28 PPE kits in January. “This initiative supports individuals who are in need and deserve a safe environment with no judgment. This extreme winter weather and COVID have further reinforced the need to help.”
So far, the school’s OOTC initiative has accumulated hundreds of different types of kits and items from both students and staff with food donations being dropped off weekly and everything else, bi-weekly.
“These initiatives allow students to understand the impact of service,” says Tyler Hill, English teacher and co-organizer of the initiative. “Sometimes students know about issues (homelessness, etc.), but don't know to what extent their communities are impacted by them. This initiative allows students to understand and contribute their time to helping those in need.”
“Stories like these are powerful because it is a reminder of simple gestures, when done with love, can bring about change,” says De Santis. “It is powerful because it is also a reminder of our responsibility to be aware of our neighbour and our responsibility to act.”
The OOTC donation drive will be running at SMCS until February 16, 2022.