Confirmation gift aids Toronto homeless

  • May 29, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - When his godmother gave him a gift of $300 for his Confirmation last year, Andrew Chown, 14, had a mission: find a worthy cause and pay it forward.


Chown, in Grade 9 at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in Oakville, managed to increase that money to $1,500, which he and classmates donated to the St. Felix Centre in downtown Toronto on May 22.

“We were trying to think of a way to double it,” he said. “So I’m writing a letter to the Raptors Foundation and I hope they will match that amount.”

Chown, and classmates in the school’s peace and justice club, which involves about 100 students, raised $1,000.

The club holds feeder school dances four times a year and donates the money to charity, so Chown wrote a letter explaining his idea of using money from one of the dances, along with his $300 gift, and another $200 from money he and his brother received at Christmas. to help out the small Toronto centre.

Chown had researched different charities, and after visiting the non-profit community centre with his mother, he decided it would be the best place to “pay it forward.”

“I was always pretty saddened when I came to Toronto and saw the homeless,” he said. “This place had a lunch program for the poor and a number of student tutoring clubs so I definitely thought this would be a worthy cause.”

The centre, run by the Felician Franciscan sisters, three staff and about 350 volunteers, feeds lunch to about 100 people daily. Plans are being made to also provide a breakfast and a packed lunch for poor neighbourhood children starting in the fall.

Paddy Bowen, the centre’s executive director, said the donation was impressive.

“Most donations from individuals are only a hundred dollars or so,” she said.

Beth Robertson, a teacher and club supervisor at St. Thomas Aquinas, said Chown stood out as a kid with courage because he made his proposal to such a huge club at the start of his first high school year.

Robertson took Chown and 33 students from the club to St. Felix Centre to not only donate the cheque, but also to help paint chairs that had been donated to the centre for their dining area.

“Coming into this part of town is an eye opener for them,” she said of her suburban students. “And they each had to pay $5 on top of the money raised to come here.”

Hands-on opportunities aren't always possible depending on which charity the club sends money to. 

 Felician Sister Christina Kazimirek said staff and volunteers at the St. Felix Centre are always surprised and grateful when money comes in, but this particular donation stood out.

“The way Andrew lit his classmates on fire is awesome,” she said. “They’ll appreciate it more because they’ve come and seen how the money is used.”

St. Felix Centre has been relying strictly on donations since October. 

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