Giving comes easily to May Mak. Taught by her late mother that waste is worse than loss, the veteran Toronto Police Service employee has dedicated her life to providing for the less fortunate.
On March 1, she was recognized for her compassion with the St. Michael’s Award, presented at the 51st annual Toronto Police Communion Breakfast.
St. Michael is the patron saint of police officers.
“My mother would be overjoyed today, especially as she was a member of St. Michael’s Cathedral,” said Mak, who is in her 32nd year with the Service. “I wish she was here to share this moment with me. She taught me and my siblings that we were all born with the resources we are going to need in life and we should make them last a lifetime. She believed that if you wasted a half-glass of milk today, you may want it in the future.
“When I was old enough to get an allowance, I learned that you could increase your personal financial worth by saving some of the allowance. So a light bulb came on and I added to my mom’s dictum. In my mind, I rationalized that, if I saved some of those resources, I could add to what I was born with and keep it for a rainy day. So when I help others, I am actually being selfish in building up equity for that day when I might need help, all the while hoping that it will never come.”
Mak’s support for charities is limitless.
Proceeds from the sale of handcrafted fashion jewelry she designs and sells through CreativEye, which she founded in November 2007, is donated to the Toronto Police United Way campaign, Victim Services Toronto, Habitat for Humanity Toronto, Moraine Hills Public School and the Full Tummy Orphanage Food Project, a non-profit organization she launched in 2009 after a visit with her sister to Cambodia.
The senior governance analyst in Professional Standards Support has raised over $22,000 to build small farms and provide safe drinking water to orphanages.
She taught me and my siblings that we were all born with the resources we are going to need in life and we should make them last a lifetime
Since 2012, she has coordinated a co-operative art exhbit and sale – Evidence of Art – that is a platform for TPS members to showcase their artistic talent. The artists donate between 15 and 100 per cent of their profit to the charity of their choice.
Mak, who loves to travel and has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, was also the finance coordinator and webmaster for Habitat for Humanity Toronto Police Women Build that recruited 100 volunteers and raised $214,000 in nearly 18 months. In 2011, she was a consultant for the 9-1-1 Habitat for Humanity Build that raised $200,000 to build two wheelchair accessible homes.
For 17 years, up until 2007, Mak spent thousands of hours as a member and manager of the Toronto Police Dragon Boat Crew that raised money for various charities.
“May has an incredible knack for weaving her philanthropy through everything she does,” said Superintendent Diane Miller, who nominated her for the award. “When I read the Routine Order announcing this award, she immediately came to mind. She is an exemplary member of our Service who has been performing one or more charitable acts at any given time throughout her career.”
A co-founder of the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada, Mak, who arrived in Canada from Hong Kong at age six and graduated from Riverdale Collegiate Institute and the University of Toronto where she majored in zoology, was a 2011 DiverseCity Fellow.
A total of eight candidates applied for this year’s award.
“Each of them was worthy of consideration and several, quite frankly, will bring a tear to the eye,” said Superintendent Peter Lennox, who presented the award to Mak. “In the end though, the choice was unanimous.”
The award was launched last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the Communion Breakfast, started in the winter of 1964 by a small group of Toronto cops who took their sons to mass at the cathedral and then to breakfast at a local restaurant.
“It’s probably safe to assume that, at that time, they had no idea how that simple gathering would evolve into the wonderful celebration that it is today,” said Master of Ceremony Kristine Kijewski. “…Over the years, this has become an ecumenical event involving faith-sharing amongst people of different cultures and beliefs.”
Over the years, federal, provincial and municipal law enforcement personnel, judiciary members and other professionals have joined Toronto Police members and their families and friends in the celebration of faith.
“It truly is a community and family affair,” Kijewski added.
In his keynote address, Chief Bill Blair spoke about the power of prayer and how it can effect positive change.
“When I was sent to 51 Division in 1995 as the unit commander, it was painfully obvious to me that the relationship between the police, who work in that community and whose job it was to serve and protect that community, and the people who lived there at the time, was terribly broken,” he recalled. “There was a lack of respect and a lack of trust and the police had lost their connection to the people we were sworn to serve.”
Blair said a meeting with the late Reverend Thomas Day, the pastor at St. Paul’s Basilica in 51 Division, helped repair the damage.
“It became quite apparent that we couldn’t do this alone, when Tom offered to help,” said Blair. “He promised that he would go back to his parish and pray for us. I knew I could use that. Not only did he do that, he went to every church in the division, gathered the faith leaders and arranged for them to meet me. They promised me that they would go back to their congregations and, every Sunday at their service, they would pray for the police that we would gain wisdom to serve the people. I thought it was pretty powerful thing to have all these people on board.
Today when we come together as people of faith and we celebrate our faith as public servants, I want you all to know how important your faith is and how it helps define what we do
“One day, while I was in the station talking to a few of my officers who felt the community was not doing enough to support us, I told them that every church in the Division was praying for us on Sundays. I think they didn’t believe me so I told them to go to the churches and listen. Several of them did, and they came back and told their colleagues what was happening. That changed everything. The power of prayer in that circumstance was an extraordinarily powerful influence on that relationship. It changed how we saw each other, how we interacted with each other and, along with many other things we did in that community, it changed that neighbourhood for the better. Today when we come together as people of faith and we celebrate our faith as public servants, I want you all to know how important your faith is and how it helps define what we do.”
For the past two decades, Marguerite MacDonald, the Chief’s scheduling co-ordinator, has been actively involved in the organization of the Communion Breakfast.
Blair singled her out for praise in his presentation.
“Marguerite is an extraordinary individual and one of those remarkable people in our organization who is constantly professional, compassionate, caring and firm in her commitment to make sure we do the right thing,” he added.
Mayor John Tory, who sits on the Toronto Police Services Board, and Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne attended the Communion Breakfast for the first time.
“I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here today and to feel that connection between faith, and I know there are many faiths represented here today, and the work that you do,” she said. “It’s not something that we talk about often…. Yet so many of us live lives that are rooted to the best of our ability and the beliefs that we develop as young kids.”
Wynne thanked Blair for his service.
“I will say, Chief, that the connection I have had with you and your analyses of our society and the challenges that confront us has always been very, very helpful to me,” she said.
Tory said he was honoured to be invited to attend the event.
“I am delighted to be here because it has such a warm and meaningful spirit,” said Tory, who added that Blair is the “finest chief of the finest police service in the world.”