The tradition of giving over the holiday season continues in the east end where Service members have partnered with the community to deliver toys over Christmas.
For the last 12 years, 54 Division has partnered with the Canadian Tire franchise at 1911 Eglinton Ave. E.to create the Toys For Kids program.
“It’s was a no-brainer as far as me saying we are going to continue with this program that I inherited when I took over,” said Mike Kenopic, who bought the Canadian Tire store four years ago. “There is so much happening in the world that’s negative. This is the one time of year when we try to forget about that and do something to bring smiles to the faces of young people.”
Organized by Constable Jen Dekezel and her team at 54 Division, The Toys for Kids program has assisted several organizations, including the Salvation Army, the Red Door Shelter, Seeds of Hope and United Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere (UMOVE). For the next five weeks, the Canadian Tire store will be accepting Canadian Tire money and cash donations to buy gifts for children.
“This is a time of year when we get to see the human side of policing,” said UMOVE chair Audette Shepard whose only child, Justin, was murdered 16 years ago.
Superintendent Peter Moreira praised Dekezel and her team for organizing the event.
“The energy they bring is unmatched,” he said, at the November 16 launch of the program. “She puts everything she has into it. It is indicative of the work she does and the other programs she runs. I am extremely proud of Jen’s impact and that of our 54 Division officers. I couldn’t pay for all the hours she and her team put in.”
Dekezel said nearly $10,000 is raised and about 600 families benefit annually from the Toy for Kids program.
“It’s a lot of work, but on that shopping day before Christmas, watching all the organizations get here at 7 a.m. and seeing them filling their shopping carts with the knowledge that with each gift in a bin, a child is getting a smile at Christmas is so fulfilling,” she said. You forget about the work that’s put in.”
Representatives from the Toronto Police Rovers and Dekezel’s ‘Girlz will be Girlz’ team attended the kick-off.