Through ProAction Cops & Kids funding, two 53 Division officers ran a successful woodworking program with students at Thorncliffe Park Public School, which is North America’s largest elementary institution.
The school has more than 2,000 students from junior kindergarten to Grade Five.
Project Building Bridges, which ran from March to June 24, enabled officers to form friendships with students who built a toolbox from scratch with assistance from Consts. Farhan Ali and Viktor Sarudi who are the 53 Division Neighbourhood Officers in the Thorncliffe Park community.
Sarudi has a woodworking background and was eager to share those skills with the young people in the community.
“When our officers approached the school’s principal Mr. Jeffrey Crane and proposed a joint venture in regards the woodworking outreach, he was glad to utilize his school and 10 Grade Five students were requested to participate,” he said. The school selected students who they felt would get the most out of the woodworking and mentoring sessions.
The officers also reached out to Home Depot who provided latex gloves, stains and other discounted purchases and Domino’s Pizza that offered promotional prices towards feeding the program participants.
The program started after the March break.
“Many of the students were already known to the officers,” said Sarudi. “The topics discussed the first time we met included the basics of woodworking and an introduction to working with tools, safety and building. We then bonded with the kids over pizza and snacks while getting to ‘play’ with cool power and hand tools. The kids loved the bi-weekly program and are sad they won’t get to be part of the next program next year as they are moving on to another school.”
ProAction Cops & Kids representatives were impressed with the program to the point that it was selected to be featured in their annual magazine.
“It was very well received by the kids and they enjoyed taking away their tool boxes,” he said.
Sarudi plans to run another program starting in September and he’s making arrangements to partner with the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Organization which recently opened a new trade centre in the community.
Insp. Paul Rinkoff said the project is a great example of Neighbourhood Officers partnering with local businesses, organizations and community members to increase opportunity, build trust and enhance community safety.
“I am so incredibly proud of Viktor and all of our Thorncliffe Park officers for spearheading this skill-building initiative,” he added. “Investing in youth through developing life skills remains a priority for our Neighbourhood Officers and the Service as a whole. I am looking forward to seeing this initiative grow in collaboration with our wonderful community partners.”