Ve’ahavta Creates an Innovative Virtual Volunteerism Campaign Designed to Make Real Impact in the Lives of People Affected by Poverty and Homelessness

As cooler weather begins to take hold, the ongoing Covid19 pandemic continues to significantly impact the manner in which we go about our everyday lives. The effects exacerbate significantly for those currently experiencing poverty and homelessness. Food and housing insecurity are on the rise. With an estimated 10,000 people experiencing homelessness in Toronto right now, an increase of approximately 15% from last year’s stats. Unfortunately, that number is expected to increase due to the economic impacts of Covid-19.

Now more than ever, there is a need for those able to help those less fortunate than them. In response, Ve’ahavta has created an innovative virtual volunteerism program – The Ve’ahavta Project: Act to Impact, in hopes of inspiring the public to get involved and enable them to make a real difference from the safety of their own home. Last year marked the launch of the campaign, where hundreds of volunteers gathered together in person, creating a variety of items for people living in poverty and experiencing homelessness, essentials such as mattresses, blankets, and food packages.  The event secured 400 volunteers and $500,000 was raised. 
This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions and with the health and safety of all involved in mind, the program is going virtual. This year’s program includes a variety of elements designed to truly engage with volunteers.  In addition to fundraising, participants will be able to choose from four different activities including cooking, baking, blanket making, and creating harm reduction kits. Participants will also learn about some of the core issues that cause and exacerbate homelessness – Affordable housing, food security, mental health, and substance abuse. The virtual campaign will be hosted through ZOOM, and starts Sunday, November 8, at 2 PM EST.

“This won’t be your typical “stare-at-the-screen Zoom meeting,” says Brandon Lablong, Director of Development, Ve’ahavta. “In addition to participating in the activities in real-time, participants will be able to engage live with facilitators, educators, and fellow volunteers. They will also have the unique opportunity to hear directly from Ve’ahavta’s clients who have faced hardship and be inspired by their personal stories on how they transformed their lives,” says Lablong.

“We know that people are looking for ways to actively help those in need, but aren’t sure how to during a pandemic when they have to stay home to keep themselves and others safe,” says Cari Kozierok, Ve’ahavta’s Executive Director. “Virtual volunteerism is a great opportunity to engage in some productive hands-on activities with the family, to make supplies that will be immediately useful for people living on the streets of Toronto and others experiencing homelessness. People will also learn the key issues that contribute to homelessness in this city and how they can make a real change by volunteering for our other programs that provide training and assist people to move onto employment or further their education,” says Kozierok.

In addition to the event, Ve’ahavta is making it very accessible for the public to donate to initiatives that directly benefit those in need. For example, as little as $5 can be donated to the 10 x 10 underwear challenge which provides this essential item to keep individuals healthy, warm, and feeling positive.  Bedrock Clothing is sponsoring this challenge and will match people’s donation pair for pair with a goal of donating 10,000 pairs!
Event DetailsSunday, November 8, 2020, at 2 PM on ZOOMInterested participants can sign up HEREVolunteers and Ve’ahavta program participants will create blankets, food packages, and harm reduction kits for those experiencing poverty and homelessness.

For more information about Ve’ahavta and The Ve’ahavta Project, see and
Ve’ahavta is a Jewish humanitarian organization dedicated to promoting positive change in the lives of people of all faiths and backgrounds who have been marginalized by poverty and hardship. Ve’ahavta mobilizes volunteers in meaningful, hands-on experiences to fulfill our collective responsibility to care for our neighbour.

Sidney Margles remembers the October crisis

It was Yom Kippur.  A Saturday. So this high holiday season it brought back some memories. It was October 10, 1970.

For those who do not remember, we were at the start of The October crisis. British Trade Commissioner Jasper  had been kidnapped from his Montreal home five days earlier. The Robert Bourassa Quebec government and the Pierre Trudeau Federal government and the Jean Drapeau municipal governments were all in a quandary.

 So Saturday, October 10 was Yom Kippur in the Jewish calendar. I was at the Adath Israel Synagogue for services, but because I was “on call,” by Bellboy, one of those original pagers was “on,” and Rabbi Michael Kramer told me his office would be unlocked so I could use the telephone if it became necessary.

 At mid-afternoon, I was paged, left the sanctuary, and called in to CJAD where I was the lead reporter. Quebec Justice Minister Jerome Choquette was to speak at 5:30, and as I was the one to translate his remarks as we did a live broadcast, I left the synagogue to go to the radio station.

 After The broadcast, where there was an appeal to Cross’ kidnappers, I was going to return to the synagogue for the final services of that holy day. As I was about to leave, minutes after 6 p.m., I heard, over the police radio.

The October crisis.

“Monsieur Laporte…enleve…a St. lambert.” I knew the late Pierre Laporte, the current Labour Minister who had been a journalist in his earlier days.

I immediately called the Montreal police dispatcher to confirm that indeed it was the Pierre Laporte that I knew who had been kidnapped from in front of his home.   Without any hesitation, I went into the announce studio where Bob Fisher was reading the sportscast.  I moved his chair (on wheels) out of the way, and in broadcast fashion, interrupted to announce the kidnapping of Pierre Laporte.

I stayed in the studio, ad libbing, telling our listeners what we knew, adding information as it came in and carried on.

 I never did get back to synagogue that day, the only time in my many, many years in broadcasting that I ever worked on Yom Kippur.

I now wish to share my memories of what happened the night when Pierre Laporte’s body was found, as many of my friends may recall that terrible time.

The Laporte funeral.

It was a Saturday, about a month after the first significant event, the kidnapping of British Trade Commissioner James “Jasper” Cross.

For the first time in weeks, I was able to go out to dinner with my wife and friends, Dr.and Mrs. Joseph Gauze.  We were at the Beaver Club of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, just completing our dinner, when the maître d’ advised me that there was a flurry of activity by some Quebec officials in the lobby (Robert Bourassa, the premier, had temporarily taken up residence there).  I called in to CJAD’s newsroom where they did not know what was up.

But I was a hunch player and decided we should leave so I could be free to follow up what was happening. Driving from the Queen E to my home in Town of Mount Royal saw me take Cote Sainte Catherine Road. As I passed the corner of McNider, in Outremont, where Justice Minister Jerome Choquette lived, I decided to stop and speak to his bodyguard who was parked outside.

I was told something was up on the South Shore, near the St. Hubert airport, but he did not know anything else.  So, I immediately told my wife and friends to leave the car and take a taxi home while I turned around and headed to the CJAD studios.  This was around 11 pm.

While enroute, through our mobile radio system, I tracked down Rick Leckner who worked with me.  He had gone out to dinner with his wife to a South Shore restaurant, so I told him to head to the St. Hubert airport.

Minutes after 11, we received confirmation that the car in which Pierre Laporte had been abducted was found abandoned at the airport. By that time, Rick had reached the airport perimeter, and I had entered the studio to broadcast the news update.

We received confirmation that the car’s trunk had been opened and Laporte’s body was inside. Rick provided me with updates, and I anchored the live broadcast, adding in additional information from my own recollection, augmented by material provided by the newsroom, and from our Ottawa bureau where they were working because the House of Commons was in special session, debating the implementation the day before of the War Measures Act. Because of our hook-up with our Ottawa bureau, we heard, live, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and a variety of politicians throughout the night.

I should note that with the report of Laporte’s death, all kinds of rumours began circulating that Jasper Cross had been found, as far away as Rawdon, I had our newsroom check out all the rumours and Quebec Provincial Police denied the Rawdon rumor.  I therefore consistently said the rumours were unfounded, and I was proven to be correct. (Jasper Cross remained in captivity for a few more weeks before police uncovered the hideout and rescued him in an exchange where the kidnappers were given safe passage to Cuba).

I remained continuously on air until dawn when a colleague took over the broadcast.