Scott Mission, Humanity First serve up support and joy to Toronto homeless

Volunteers preparing Christmas meals in the ktichen

Blake Henstridge had finished one dinner at the Scott Mission on Christmas morning and was outside on Spadina Ave., chatting, when volunteers from Humanity First arrived to hand out pizza and drinks.

“€Cheese pizza, that’s awesome,”€ said Henstridge, who arrived in Toronto from Newfoundland in July 2011.

There are scads of charities who feed the homeless and others in need during Christmas. On that day a man can have “€as many (Christmas dinners) as you want if you know where to look,”€ said Henstridge.

Humanity First has sent volunteers around the city out during the Christmas season with pizza and drinks for homeless people since 2007. This year, 45 volunteers distributed food for 400.

“€We feel people, those who are on the streets, they also deserve a little support and joy,”€ said executive director Aslam Daud. “€These people are the ignored community. We want to make sure they get some attention.”€

Basharat Ahmed drove fellow volunteers Hassan Farooq and Zaafir Chaudhary to Spadina and College with juice boxes and pizza in the trunk of his black BMW.

Those in front of the mission quickly collected the first round of pizza packages, but a second trip saw the boxes harder to give away.

The volunteers perused Spadina, Kensington Market and alleyways behind it looking for anyone who seemed in need, but there were few around. A couple people outside the mission smiled and said thanks, but no thanks, rubbing full bellies.

It was the first time Chaudhary, 19, volunteered with the holiday meal.

“€It was really eye-opening,”€ said Chaudhary. “€I saw there’s a lot of unfortunate people who despite living in a big city, don’t have food.”€

Humanity First also runs a food bank and delivers monthly hampers to people who request it.

Inside, the Scott Mission has run its Christmas dinner since 1941. This year, it cooked for 300.

Horace Prince couldn’t say how many years he’s been coming to the Mission. But he knows that for a while, he was there everyday. Life was rough for the 72-year-old, who emigrated from Jamaica 30 years ago.

“€I wouldn’t wish that (life) on anybody,”€ he said.

Now, he lives in the Annex. He comes less frequently. Prince said he misses the spices of Jamaican food but Christmas dinner “€is a meal,”€ at any rate.

Gilbert Carty has volunteered every Christmas for 10 years. He knows the drill and stands at the ready in the kitchen, waiting to find out what his assembly line task will be.

He was first inspired to pitch in 11 years ago after he saw a neighbour heading out to volunteer on Christmas Day.

Carty used to deliver the Mission’s Christmas hampers and enjoys coming back every year to see the familiar faces of staff and volunteers.

“€I think we’ve got to exhibit compassion at Christmas time, and it rewards me for being here, so I feel good about it. That’s why I’m here,”€ he said.