’Twas the weekend of Thanksgiving, and all through the basement eager young volunteers were filling reusable black grocery bags with cans of cranberry sauce, corn and gravy, boxes of stuffing — and a turkey.
Such was the scene on Saturday at McDowell’s Valu-Mart on Bayview Avenue, where the seventh annual Sarah’s Food Drive harvested the efforts of a robust weeks-long campaign to collect food for the citywide Daily Bread Food Bank.
“I’m really proud of everyone that’s been working on the drive this year,” said 12-year-old founder Sarah Jordan, who celebrated this year’s drive with a community barbecue at the supermarket. “It feels so great that we’re helping others.”
While final numbers had not been calculated at press time, the goal was to collect 70,000 lbs. of food for the Daily Bread Food Bank, up from 60,000 lbs. donated last year.
This year’s efforts were supported by 6,000 students at three midtown schools and more than 20 small businesses in a friendly competition that saw them placed on either Team East or Team West, depending on where they are located relative to Bayview Avenue, the main artery running through the target area.
Northlea, Bessborough Drive and Rolph Road schools, and Chestnut Park Realty, the Leaside Pub and the Smokin’ Cigar store were among the businesses all competing to see who could raise the most food. The Leaside Pub and McSorleys Wonderful Saloon both donated the proceeds of $2 discounts off kids meals, while Chestnut Park and Bosley Real Estate donated a $25 basket of food for every house one of their realtors sold.
The true winners are Toronto families, remarked Sarah’s mother Lynda Debono, who approached many of the businesses on behalf of the drive.
“It’s crazy how exponentially Sarah’s drive has grown,” said Bosley agent Patrick Rocca, who has been a supporter since its inception and helped plan the Saturday afternoon barbecue. “She’s a brilliant, brilliant little girl and it’s quite the amazing thing she’s doing.”
Sarah founded the drive in 2008 in response to her mother telling her there were people living five minutes away from their Leaside home who didn’t have anything to eat. Her sister Claire, 8, has helped run the drive since 2012.
Her charitable efforts were recognized recently with a Canadian Living Me to We Award in the “Youth in Action, 12 and Under” category, along with an Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award presented to her and Claire by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Toronto Chapter.