Those of you who follow my blog know the word POSSIBILITARIAN is a favourite of mine. It’s something, in my humble opinion, we should all strive to be.
From time to time, I thought it would be a good news opportunity to announce a POSSIBILITARIAN AWARD.
SO this week I am proud to introduce you to the first recipients: the enthusiastic founder of New Circles, Cindy Blakely and the tireless volunteers working with her. Cindy kindly took some time to answer a few questions and make a convincing case for every one of us to undertake a helping hand in one way or another.
I’m also happy to say that as a result of the tremendous support of readers in the BookBub promotion of The Promise of Provence last Sunday, I will be making a donation to New Circles on behalf of all of you. Thank you ereaders !
P.S. ~ What was your initial motivation for establishing New Circles in 2005 and what were the major hurdles in getting the organization up and running?
C.B. ~ As a social worker I saw that if people’s basic needs were not met, it was difficult to function. i.e. get a job, send your kids to school dressed and fed and that people could not really manage with all the other problems that we face in life if they have to worry about food, clothing and shelter. Clothing was a niche that was not as well covered as food and shelter. Clothing is expensive and we need more of it in Canada because of our weather conditions. I felt that there was a lack of services in the city to meet this need particularly for newcomers who already had so much to manage in settling in a new country.
P.S. ~ How did your life experience, both personally and professionally, assist in the set-up?
C.B. ~ Professionally I saw the needs of my clients and the lack of services for them. Personally I was able secure some funding for us so that we could offer this service.
P.S. ~ What would your advice be to someone who wishes to begin establishing such a support group in his or her community?
C.B. ~ Go for it ! I never in a million years would have guessed how New Circles would grow and develop. Be willing to take a risk and know there will be many twists and turns along the way but whatever happens, many people will have their lives changed in a positive way. Including me!
P.S. ~ If you had to choose one area of assistance that New Circles provides, which would you say offers the most to the people you help?
C.B. ~ The need for clothing is the catalyst and gives them the initial start to alleviate their poverty. However, once they are here they become aware of our many programs, they can volunteer (to get Canadian work experience and to give back), sign up for skills training, peer language support and friendship circle (2 programs aimed at improving their English proficiency which is such a barrier to employment), get referrals to other services.
Many people in our neighbourhoods are isolated because they lack Canadian experience (they are new arrivals, they don’t speak English and are unfamiliar with our culture) and/ or living in poverty. We are an important service to help them settle into a new country.
Our Senior Mobile malls reach seniors who are unable to access our services. They not only receive clothing that they could not afford to buy but also have an opportunity to socialize with their neighbours and our volunteers and staff which cuts down on their social isolation which is such a big problem.
Our teen programming through teen shopping days, teen volunteering, our prom boutique reach this group which teaches them so much as well as helping with their adjustment to a new country…with settlement.
Our Holiday Angel Program provides basic necessities to people who are just starting out in Canada. This program gives our clients such a boost both materially and emotionally as for most it is a new experience to be helped and cared about by a stranger.
New circles keep developing as clients join our different circles! Hard to say what helps most in the long run but of course getting free clothing for the family helps so much. For a family of 4, it saves them about $3000 which is substantial if you are on welfare.
P.S. ~ What would you say is the best way members of a community can help an organization like New Circles? Would it be by donating time, money or goods?
C.B. ~ All of the above. Volunteers are the reason we can offer the programs we do! They are absolutely fantastic and so willing to give their time and energy to New Circles.
We need good quality clothing so that we can offer clothing to our clients. Right now, it is critical that we get winter coats, snowsuits, gloves and winter apparel. So many of our clients have never experienced winter and are not equipped with the proper clothing. If anyone has connections to a new clothing source that would be so appreciated as new clothes are obviously more desirable. Right now we can only offer our clients one pair of underwear each. This is because we have to buy it to give away and we just cannot afford to give away the number of pairs each person needs.
***TAKE NOTE EVERYONE ~ WE CAN DO THIS*** (comment from P.S.)
C.B. ~ A friend of mine had a birthday party and asked people to bring new underwear instead of birthday presents for her. Not only was it a different and fun way to celebrate, it meant about 40 people got underwear from us that week!
We would love it if people collected things like that instead of hostess gifts. i.e. bring a pair of gloves or even a good used pair. We never have enough gloves especially for adults.
One teenager had a drive for his friends called “Jeans for teens” and we got in so many wonderful pairs of jeans which our teens here want!
We always need Holiday Angels to adopt a family and give them a good start in Canada. For many of our Angels, this is the most rewarding thing they do at Christmas time.
I continue to be impressed by the kindness and generosity of people!
We cannot do anything without money to pay our rent, staff and expenses. It would be wonderful for people to realize that we need financial support to survive and without it, all the donated goods won’t be of any use! They can help through Pay Pal, Canada Helps, calling with their visa # or mailing in a cheque. Third party fundraisers are always welcome since we have such a skeleton staff.
So there you go, dear readers. I am certain you will agree that Cindy and her volunteers at New Circles are most worthy winners of our award! If you are in Toronto, please consider participating in the initiatives of New Circles.
Wherever you live there are ordinary people doing extraordinary things to make the community a better place. If you have suggestions for the winner of a POSSIBILITARIAN AWARD, please feel free to send that person an email and let them know how you feel! Then take some time to pitch in and help in whatever way you can. Together we are strong!