ShareLife gets a reboot

By 
  • September 4, 2020

The rapid proliferation of COVID-19 prevented ShareLife, the Archdiocese of Toronto’s annual charitable appeal, from launching its major parish fundraising campaign on the last weekend of March as intended. 

But now that the 225 member parishes of the archdiocese have opened their doors to the public again — albeit with only 30-per-cent capacity — ShareLife has decided the time is right to restart this year’s campaign.  

The weekend of Sept. 12-13 will mark the first of three ShareLife Sunday special collections at Masses throughout the archdiocese. Donations will also be collected on Thanksgiving weekend (Oct. 10-11) and at Masses before Remembrance Day (Nov. 7-8).

The 2020 campaign came to a crashing halt when churches were forced to suspend Mass to deal with the coronavirus in mid-March, shortly after the campaign’s launch. ShareLife set an ambitious goal to raise $15.65 million this year, the vast majority of that — $13.8 million — from the annual parish component of the campaign.

Despite the hardships people have faced, the giving has continued, said Arthur Peters, executive director of ShareLife. By the end of August, parishioners had raised $8.15 million — 59 per cent of the goal — for ShareLife. It’s allowed ShareLife to continue funding the more than 40 agencies it supports, programs that aid children, seniors, families, young mothers, seminarians and more. 

“We are funding the agencies to nearly 90 per cent of the money we allocated to them,” said Peters. “Now, we need to raise (the rest of) these funds.”

This  clearly illustrates that ShareLife, founded in 1976, has not hit the pause button during the pandemic. Its mission of “living the Gospel by providing those in need” was still carried out. E-mail e-blasts, testimonial stories, videos for social media and old-fashioned phone calls have been executed en masse to keep ShareLife and its agencies in people’s minds. 

If the campaign’s goal is not realized, tapping into reserves would be an action ShareLife and Catholic Charities would take to ensure each agency receives its allocation. Peters hopes to avoid utilizing reserves.

“We hope to meet our goal so that we don’t have to take from our reserves because those reserves are there to support with ongoing funding and new programs.”

Historically, Peters says about “$2.5 to $3 million” is raised during the campaign’s first collection. Still, this campaign’s parameters are unlike any other in its 44-year history. 

Robin Griller, executive director of St. Michael’s Homes, an organization that aids people with mental health issues and individuals overcoming addictions, said ShareLife donations provide pivotal contributions to the organization’s housing programs.

“The actual program funding for our housing, including counsellors and group activities, is made possible by ShareLife support,” said Griller. “I sometimes say that ShareLife puts the ‘program’ in housing ‘program.’ Without their support, the guys in the housing program wouldn’t have the counsellors or caseworkers that they need.”

ShareLife has also provided instrumental backing to the Our Place Community of Hope drop-in centre established by St. Michael’s Homes. This special place of care and fellowship is poised to open its doors again at some point in September, but Griller says it will require a “resource-intensive” effort to steer through a tricky “in-between-waves pandemic period.” 

Peters hopes parishioners will answer the “call of Jesus to love one another.”

“More than ever this year, we want to invite parishioners to support these agencies on the front lines through a donation to the ShareLife campaign. We know there will be people who will not be able to contribute for a variety of reasons. We understand that. We would like them to pray for others who can donate to do so.”

See sharelife.org.

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