While most people are pondering vacations this time of year, James Symons is thinking about poverty.
As founder of the Toolbox Niagara Project, which collects and distributes needed items to the homeless during the Christmas holiday season, Symons is in his second year of doing an additional drive in the summertime, labelled “Poverty Does Not Take a Vacation.”
Starting Thursday, July 4, there will be a donation bin at the Thorold Community Activities Group (TCAG), at 131 Richmond St., said Symons. He encourages all Thoroldites to stop by from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and donate an item.
“I am collecting gently used sleeping bags, toiletries, men’s and women’s socks, sun screen and bug spray. Anything helps and is appreciated,” added the Beaverdams resident.
His three-week summer campaign will run until July 22, with items scheduled for distribution that week to Community Care, Start Me Up, and the Hope Centre, along with other agencies that help people living in poverty.
“We hope to spread it farther throughout the region this year,” he stated. “There’s more need than ever this year,” he said, especially now that the Out of the Cold program has shut down for the summer months.
According to Symons, the Out of the Heat program starts this week at St. George’s Anglican Church, located at 83 Church Street in St. Catharines.
“We have a big heart here in Niagara,” stated the passionate volunteer.
"Thank you everyone for your support. Last year we received donations until November 2, which is a very long three-week campaign,” Symons laughed during the launch.
“This year there is more of a need with people camping in tent city. These products, sun screen, bug spray and sleeping bags will help the homeless get through the summer," he said.
He added, “Thanks to Impact Promotions for quickly providing whatever we need, thanks to Dan (Pelletier) for giving us space and being a great partner. And thanks to Terry for helping the fight against poverty and helping the community grow.”
Mayor Terry Ugulini said, “I just want to thank you and your group of volunteers. Like you said, poverty does not take a vacation."
Ugulini noted that Symons found a niche where there was something missing in the community, "You decided to do something different, to supply these greatly needed products," he said. “This is an important initiative and it takes everyone working together moving forward to make things better.”
Dan Pelletier, Executive Director at the TCAG added, “We’re happy to support James. He’s one of the true guys. He cares. That’s what he does. He steps up when there’s a need. And it’s a good fit for us because of our mission. We provide programs year round. Anyone is welcome at the TCAG and we provide financial assistance to anyone who needs it.”
For more information, contact Symons through the Toolbox Niagara Project page on Facebook.