By AMARACHI AMADIKE
It’s hard to ignore the drastic increase in prices of goods and services that we need on a daily basis. Although some are lucky enough to easily adapt to the ever-growing inflation, many find themselves in dire need of assistance.
Darue Ramsay, an East Toronto resident who was born and raised in Etobicoke, took it upon himself to invest in the lives of less fortunate individuals in his community. He founded Community Care Connect, a non-for-profit organization that has been helping the Upper Beaches neighbourhood through food assistance programs, reintegration services and an outreach program that provides community service hours for those in need.
“I wanted to go out in the community and talk to the people about things they need, provide them with sandwiches and give them clothing,” Ramsay told Beach Metro Community News.
Although this passion project was started as a one-person effort, Community Care Connect has evolved into a team that now fields 12 volunteers.
Prior to the walk-in food bank they currently operate, the organization functioned as a delivery service helping families in low-income areas during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We knew that the pandemic was hard for individuals because a lot of people were getting cut from their jobs,” said Ramsay. “It was hard for people to have food.”
According to Ramsay, the mission is to expand to different communities, creating drop-in centres for people in places such as Regent Park, Etobicoke, Riverdale and more.
He described a dream of having a space where people can utilize computers provided by Community Care Connect to build resumes and fulfill other internet needs. At the moment, however, Community Care Connect is still building towards that goal of maximizing its outreach.
“We’ve been fortunate with this community because Beach Hill is a mixed community. You have low-income [residents] but a lot of people have good careers,” said Ramsay. “Because of [their help] we are able to have an IT department, marketing department, and a community development department.”
In the past year, Community Care Connect has also expanded its mission statement beyond just food assistance. They now provide reintegration services for individuals coming out of incarceration to “build bridges back to society”.
Through a partnership with the John Howard Society, an organization that deals with the issues of crime and prison reform, Ramsay’s team connects newly freed inmates with opportunities to access subsidized housing. They also designed a program, Build Your Own, a certified entrepreneurial course which helps people start a business from scratch.
“People have an idea of starting a business but they don’t know what to do or how to do it,” said Ramsay. “We train them on how to do it.”
At the end of the course, participants are then provided with a business plan to help them get their registration started. Although this particular partnership with the John Howard Society is part of the reintegration services, the course is available to the general public free of charge.
As a growing organization, Community Care Connect relies on the assistance of residents to fulfill its mission of providing for the less fortunate.
Ramsay told Beach Metro Community News that the feedback from local residents is usually the question, “How can I help?”
As a result of partnerships with various businesses in the neighbourhood, Community Care Connect has made it easier to donate to the cause by providing drop-bins for potential food donors. These bins can be found at the Woodbine/Danforth Valu Mart, Little Ones Closet, Morning Parade Coffee Bar, Mimi Beauty Clinics, The Corner Spot, and The Beach BIA. Monetary donations can also be sent directly to the organization through their official site.
It’s now been two years since Ramsay’s mission began. On Aug. 20, Community Care Connect will be marking its second anniversary by hosting a free barbecue outside their food bank at 1871 Gerrard St. E., west of Woodbine Avenue.
The gathering, which will consist of free food and prizes courtesy of the partners, runs from noon until 3 p.m.. Residents from all neighbourhoods are invited to the event.
“The whole aspect of a community is to come together—to be one,” Ramsay said. “I want to encourage the community to have awareness about this organization and help out as much as they can.”