This year, 250 children in some of the most underprivileged neighbourhoods in all of Peel Region will receive Star boxes at Polycultural Mississauga
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By: Jonathan Forani Staff Reporter, Published on Fri Nov 07 2014
Despite the inevitable ties between Santa Claus and the Christian Christmas holiday, the Star’s Santa Claus Fund is non-religious.
Each dollar donated helps provide for families in need, no matter their religion.
“Santa is for everybody,” says Marwan Ismail, executive director at Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services in Mississauga, where 250 children in some of the most underprivileged neighbourhoods in all of Peel region will receive Star boxes this year.
“It has nothing to do with a religion. Even most of our people who get the (Santa boxes) are not Christians,” says Ismail, noting most of the families they serve that receive the Star boxes are from Urdu, Arabic and African countries. “We are trying to spread this message of peace and love.”
Though the very first Santa Fund boxes were wrapped at Toronto’s Little Trinity Anglican Church, the initiative stems from a desire to help those most in need during the holiday season. Since its inception in 1906, when Joseph Atkinson provided some 300 children with gifts, the Santa Claus Fund has stayed true to its purpose. Even then, it wasn’t about religion.
The front page of the Star on Dec. 12, 1906 read: “… whatever contributions made may be expended in bringing pleasure to little hearts where pleasure is most seldom felt. There are many hundreds of little folks in this wealthy city, and in this prosperous year, to whom Christmas and Santa Claus are unfortunately meaningless terms.”
“We still stick by that today,” says Barb Mrozek, the Star’s director of Charity and Philanthropy. “I think (Atkinson) would be happy to know that we’ve continued his tradition of providing for kids who can’t help themselves.”
That need transcends religion. If Santa Claus presents too many religious themes for one of the Star’s community service agencies, they can call it a “winter gift” or a “back-to-school gift.” “We all know the reality,” says Mrozek. “When you go back to school, regardless of race, religion, language or anything, kids are saying ‘What did you get?’”
Ultimately, the goal is to help provide for that family that can’t provide for themselves during the winter months.
“These people, they need the push because they can’t afford anything, and they don’t have the time or the money to go out to get something extra for their kids,” says Ismail. “They have the bare minimum. We use these gifts to give these people a push and put a smile on their kids’ faces.”
Goal: $1.6 million
To donate: For secure online donations, please go to thestar.com/santaclausfund .
Visa, AMEX, Discover and MasterCard: Dial 416-869-4847.
Cheques: Please send to The Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund, One Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M5E 1E6.
The Star does not allow anyone to solicit on its behalf. Tax receipts will be issued.