Yonge Street Mission's Christmas Market serves over 1000 families

    TORONTO, Jan. 3 /CNW/ - "I just lost my job and didn't know how I could
provide Christmas for my two kids. This generosity is amazing - thank you!"
said a young mother who visited Yonge Street Mission's Christmas Market in
December 2007.
    From December 12 to 22, over 1,000 families came to the Mission to choose
warm clothing, food and new toys for their children. Low-income families and
people suffering the crisis of ill health or unemployment registered in
advance to receive Christmas assistance. Then for nine days in December the
gymnasium at the Mission's Community Centre was transformed into a giant
market and clients came by appointment to choose gifts for their families.
    The Christmas Market has been a Mission tradition for well over 20 years.
In the early years, the Market was called the Christmas Assistance Program.
People would line up and the Mission would hand out hampers.
    Bill Ryan, Director of the Community Centre in the early 90s, remembers
discussing with staff that the process was wrong. "It did not provide families
with the dignity they deserved," he said.
    Soon after, the Market started to operate by making appointments and then
inviting clients to pick out for themselves the toys and gifts that their
children would most cherish and the food they needed and wanted. In recent
years this has included specialty food like halal products for Muslim
families. This year, the Market served almost 2000 children, 200 infants and
1500 adults an increase of about 10% over last year. In addition, emergency
hampers were given out on Christmas Eve.
    Up until the late 90s, the Market was mainly funded by schools and
churches. As it has grown in size, more individuals, groups and corporations
have supported the Market. Two of the largest supporters now are CHUM and the
Toronto Star. Every year turkeys are provided by Maple Leaf Fresh Foods. This
year the Mission was fortunate to receive a large donation of halal meat just
before Christmas.
    Organizations such as Accenture, Echo Marketing, Labatt, Sheraton Centre
and many faculties at University of Toronto support the Market by holding huge
employee drives for food, toys and clothing. Other corporate groups give
everything from wrapping paper to Christmas puddings to children's books - all
to ensure that the Market is a resounding success.
    "Without our wonderful corporate donors and sponsors, the Christmas
Market could not exist," says Barbara Walkden, Director of Development. "In
addition to their gifts of food, clothing, and toys, corporate groups donate
their time as sorters, greeters, and servers. Many find it a rewarding and
transformative experience to be part of our Christmas programs and to help the
most needy in our community. Our thanks go out to volunteer teams from Nike,
CBS Outdoor, Dell Canada, Bank of Montreal and many, many more."
    Over 1,000 volunteers donated about 3,200 hours to help YSM's Christmas
programs. During this season of giving, community members experienced the joy
of knowing that someone cared about them and donors and volunteers had the
chance to share with others not as fortunate.
    "Thank you for all your help and support for this Christmas. When I came
to Yonge Street Mission today I was really amazed by the friendly atmosphere
and the tremendous amount of teamwork. Everyone seemed so happy, both the
staff and the people who came here. What really surprised me was the number of
people who were helping out, even in the elevator! I am really touched by the
loving, caring and supportive people who were courteously working for the
benefit of those in need - thank you!" - a Christmas Market client
    In addition to the Christmas Market, the Mission celebrated the season by
hosting thousands of meals for groups of all ages, a pageant, and special
outings for the community. Gift boxes were personally delivered to 170 shut-in
seniors and isolated adults. The doors were open to over 100 homeless street
youth on Christmas Day and each received a backpack with warm clothing and

    The Christmas Market allows individuals and families in need to connect
with corporate sponsors, and school and church groups in a unique way to share
the joy and hope of the season. Yonge Street Mission is proud and grateful to
receive support from all who believe in building a stronger, healthier
community in our city centre. For more information and photos of the Christmas
programs, visit www.ysm.on.ca.

For further information:

For further information: and/or photos contact: Barbara Walkden,
Director of Development, (416) 929-9614, ext. 245, bwalkden@ysm.on.ca

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Yonge Street Mission

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