Sergeant Norman Crichton was issuing a speeding ticket on Lake Shore Blvd. near Ontario Place, a few months ago, when he was approached by a woman with a request to help out with the storage of some books.
Jennifer Branco, the chief executive officer of the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation, was in a quandary as she had skids of new books left over after making distributions to nearly 25 charities.
First Books, which provides free and low-priced books, had made the donation to the foundation.
“When she told me she had the books, I assumed it was a few which I could put in a box and take to my station,” recounted Crichton, in his 35th year with the Service.
He was in for a big surprise.
There were 21,000 books on 20 skids, which Branco had to move out of Ontario Place’s parking lot that same day.
Crichton made a few calls and was able to arrange for the skids to be transported to Traffic Services for storage. He then contacted Staff Sergeant Chuck Konkel, of the Toronto Police Operational Centre, to help find a good home for the books. Konkel reached out to and worked closely with the Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit to distribute the books.
“The Toronto Police believe that literacy is the hallmark of a healthy and engaged community,” said Konkel, an author himself. “We are so very proud to do our part to help young Canadians learn the joy of reading a good book.”
Some of the books were distributed to Native Child & Family Service of Toronto locations in the city, the City of Toronto Family Residence Centre, Eastview School in Scarborough, the Native Women’s Resource Centre, Six Nations Youth & Family Services in Brantford and Nishnawbe Homes Toronto Police Services.
Books were also shipped to Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Witchekan Lake First Nation and Pelican Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan.
Purolator assisted with the shipment of the books to Saskatchewan.
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly thanked the Canadian courier and the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation for their generosity.
“Books are an amazingly powerful tool to open children’s minds and help them realize what they can be,” Sloly said, at a ceremony at Traffic Services on May 3 that included Aboriginal singing and drumming. “Toronto Police is very humbled and honoured to have a very small part in what we are doing here today.”
Roger Vyse, the youth event coordinator with the Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation, that addresses issues that are unique to the First Nations community, acknowledged the donation.
“Many Aboriginal students have low literacy levels that prevent them from getting higher education,” he said. “About 30 per cent of Aboriginal adults lack basic literacy skills, especially those residing in isolated Aboriginal communities. It’s unfortunate that many of our young people can’t walk to libraries to check out books, but thanks to this project, they will be able to do that.”
Konkel said this is the first of what will be an ongoing volunteer initiative aimed at distributing 50,000 donated books annually to communities and associations across Canada.
“These books will be aimed at young audiences,” he added.