Mark Boscariol is planning to take on the poverty "growing like a virus" in downtown Windsor $1 at a time.
The owner of two downtown businesses — Snackbar-B-Q and the Downtown Pizza Co. — will soon be offering customers the option of adding a single dollar to their bill to pay into a Little Things Matter Program.
"It's only one dollar, but little things matter and that's what this is to show," he explained. "If you can fix a porch light that can help deter crime on that street. If you can fix the porch of an elderly lady meaning she can live in that neighbourhood another year longer that's a force for good."
Council did not support program
The program was originally included in the city's downtown improvement plan, but lacked council support and was cut. It was meant to give micro grants up to $1,000 for neighbourhood projects.
When the city dropped the initiative, Boscariol was approached by Coun. Rino Bortolin and decided to pick it up through private funds.
"We thought it was too important to die on the council floor," explained the Ward 3 councillor.
The program was one of the few incentives that focused on the neighbourhood, meaning residents were upset to see it dropped.
"They felt it was a worthwhile program and they saw it could actually make a difference," Bortolin said. "I'm very excited to see it move forward."
He's partnered with the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative, who will help manage how the funds are used.
Investing in residents is investing in downtown
Two private donors have already stepped up to offer $1,000 donations to help the program take off and Boscariol is calling on other businesses to join in with donation boxes or GoFundMe accounts — every little bit helps.
"There are a lot of different ways to help and each way matters," he said.
Supporting people living downtown is the only way to ensure the area will thrive, Boscariol added.
"Downtown has to be about residents, it can't be about visitors and business alone," he said. "If people don't want to live there people don't want to invest there."