Project Engagement celebrates 11 years of helping Toronto's less fortunate

Toronto proudly showed its holiday spirit in a bustling gym in Scarborough Tuesday morning. That’s where the city's 11th annual Project Engagement food drive wrapped up. More than 600 volunteers, including some famous faces, filled boxes with food for 400 families across the GTA.

Volunteers help pack food hampers heading to 400 families across GTA

Michael 'Pinball' Clemons said events like Project Engagement's 11th annual food drive are reminders "that in community, our responsibility is to share."

Toronto proudly showed its holiday spirit in a bustling gym in Scarborough Tuesday morning.

That's where the city's 11th annual Project Engagement food drive wrapped up. More than 600 volunteers, including some famous faces, filled boxes with food for 400 families across the GTA.

Stephon Liburd and his little brother were two of the people who packed food at the Ellesmere Community Centre.

"Hopefully they feel really good of what we gave them, because we're a lot less fortunate than we are," Liburd told CBC News.

"There's 'good mornings' and laughter all around, and it's such a nice feeling," said Kumudhini Tahavaraj, who filled boxes with pasta and jars of sauce.

Mayor John Tory said the drive is a great example of the city's holiday spirit.

"This is just at the essence of what is great about Toronto," he said.

"Yes, government has a role to play in addressing poverty but the real way in which we're going to lift people up is by citizens and companies and labour unions stepping up and saying, 'We want to help.' And that's exactly what's happening today," Tory told CBC.

Toronto Argonoauts legend Mike 'Pinball' Clemons packed a few boxes as well but deferred all praise to the volunteers.

"I started driving here, sort of at 6:30 this morning, they've been doing this for months."

Clemons said "when we talk about the holidays, we're reminded that in community, our responsibility is to share. Sometimes we forget that and the holiday season brings us back."

Vince Gasparro, who co-founded Project Engagement with Coun. Michael Thompson 12 years ago, said each food hamper will feed a family for a month. Along with the usual staples, each family will receive a turkey, a ham and fresh produce.

Gasparro, who is an investment banker, said he feels he has a moral obligation to help people less fortunate.

He said he was overwhelmed by how Torontonians responded to this year's food drive and said Project Engagement "tells me people want to help and they want to know how. I'm giving them that 'how.'"

Gasparro shared his experiences of delivering food to needy families.

"It's very moving when you see the people who are receiving these holiday hampers to know that they're able to get ahead of their bills a little bit and able to have some hope." 

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