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How a one-time Christmas donation turned into so much more.

2020 has been an unforgettable year, and one that has touched the lives of every Canadian. Throughout it all, what continues to stand out are the stories of kindness and humanity across every part of our country.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on and reinforced the vital need to help others. For some though, including Shawna Curtis, a member of our Channel Marketing team, the spirit of giving had been established long before the pandemic.

Shawna has been a long-term volunteer for the Toronto-based Robertson House and her ongoing acts of kindness and generosity are a heartwarming reminder that all acts of giving, those big and small, can make an important difference in the lives of Canadians across the country.

Tell us about the Robertson House and your experience volunteering with them. How did it start?

Robertson House is a safe haven for women and children during a difficult time in their lives. They provide shelter, food, crisis intervention, counselling, and support in finding permanent housing.

Several years ago, our team collected gift cards and Christmas gifts to donate to local organizations. We discovered Robertson House and the moment I walked in the front door, I knew there was something very special about this shelter. There was a lovely Christmas tree filled with homemade decorations, there were kids of all ages and backgrounds playing cards on the floor, moms sitting in a circle rocking babies. There was such a sincere appreciation for our donation that I knew that I wanted to be involved in supporting this kind of work in our community.   

What then? How did that one visit turn into a cause so near and dear to your heart?

The next year, my team hosted the first first Family Fun Day. One of my colleagues who is a coach set up a soccer camp in a local park and for the younger kids we had a fun fair in their outdoor courtyard – complete with spin wheels and face painting.

Over the last three years, we’ve been able to:

  • Do a Family Fun Day each year in the summer with a soccer camp and fair for the younger children and manicures for the moms. 
  • We hold a warm clothing drive each Fall so that the kids and moms (who often arrive at the shelter with only the basics) can keep warm during the winter months.
  • We had a Blue Jays event for Mother’s Day where we were able to get a hat and shirt for all the kids and we ordered pizza to the shelter (so the cooks could have the night off 😊) and watch the Mother’s Day game on their big screen.
  • We’ve also had a holiday event the last few years where everyone on our team brings a gift for a child to our holiday gathering (rather than us exchange gifts) and then we bring them down to the House and hold a holiday party on the PA Day in December.
    • Last year we were able to get Cinderella, Spiderman and Frosty to come visit and take pictures which the families, who then got to print out the photos and put the in the frames the kids were making!

It’s important to me that we support the Robertson House team regularly and not just arrive for an event and photo op once a year. I check in with them throughout the year to see how we can assist to try and meet the needs of the moms and children and staff. In 2020, Rogers has been committed to providing support to women and their children in at-risk communities across the country, and we were able to donate tablets to help the youth with access to their online school programs. We are also setting up online homework support in the new year.

What inspired you to begin supporting the Robertson House?

I spent over a decade working in community healthcare where I saw poverty, homelessness, sickness and loneliness every day. But what I also saw was resilience and fearlessness from those often in the saddest of circumstances. And that inspired me.  

My team was amazing in jumping on board to support the activities, donating money, clothing, but most importantly their time.  Whether it was giving the Moms a pedicure while chatting about their favourite music, an impromptu basketball game in the courtyard or working through a craft project – the human connection is priceless. Showing people that they are worthy of time and attention laughter is so important.

With the holidays fast approaching, Canadians are thinking how they can give back. What are some ways we can look to support those in need this holiday season?

We are fortunate to work for an organization that fosters a commitment to volunteerism and giving back to the communities where we live and work. In a year that even a science fiction writer would find unbelievable, the holidays will also be a difficult time for many. We are doing a virtual toy drive for Robertson House this year by collecting donations and having a special toy picked out for each child and wrapped and delivered in time for the holidays.

As you plan for your holiday season this year, please consider those in less than fortunate circumstances. The work of local shelter organizations is so important and in this time in our history more critical than ever.  The kind and dedicated staff that work at these organizations are so appreciate of any gesture – whether financial or something as simple as ordering coffee and donuts to the team.

What would you say to others thinking about becoming more involved and supporting their local communities?

I often describe my volunteer work as selfish (queue the funny looks).  It’s selfish because it makes me feel good. Being able to lean on the advantages I’ve had in life and help someone who may have not had those same opportunities is an amazing feeling.   

I also believe that in 2020, like never before, we have realized how critical it is to engage in and support our local communities because they are people and businesses that hold us up during difficult times. Life can change in an instant and there may be one day when we, or someone we love, may need the support of our community. I always hope that if that happened, I would experience the kindness I have seen over the last four years from my team and Rogers as an organization.

Supporting individual community contributions like Shawna’s.

One of the ways Rogers is helping to make a better Canada possible.