DCS faculty, staff and students came together this past December to give back to the community. Volunteers gathered at the Scott Mission, located a couple blocks away from campus at College and Spadina, to serve meals to the city’s homeless and assist in different areas at the mission. Since 1941, the Scott Mission has helped serve the poor and needy in the community.
In October, Lynda Barnes (Departmental Assistant) and Carolyn Ursabia (Administrative & Financial Assistant) came up with the idea of participating in a Thanksgiving food drive to support the Scott Mission. This December they suggested that DCS take things to the next level.
On December 17, thirty-five volunteers from the department signed up to help out at the Mission over two shifts. Jobs included preparing and serving full meals to about 300 people, putting together care packages in the Food and Clothing Bank, watching children in the Scott Mission Daycare, and assisting with clerical duties in the Business Office.
DCS has had a very successful start with these community efforts. During the food drive in October, faculty, staff and students contributed 12 boxes of non-perishable food and some funds to the food and donation drive; remarkably, this impressive amount was brought in in just a week’s time. There was also a friendly element of competition involved: DCS folks in Sandford Fleming and Pratt competed with those in Bahen to collect the most food items. This spirit of competition inspired the volunteers and also added a lighthearted tone to the drive: it should be noted that the Sandford Fleming/Pratt group won the hand crafted trophy after collecting the highest number of food items.
Though the December volunteer effort did not include a “contest” for the trophy, staff, faculty and graduate students readily volunteered their time. It was a productive day and the volunteers had a great time giving back to the community. According to Barnes, it was also “an opportunity for DCS to give back to the local community where many of us live and all of us work”.
In fact, these DCS community efforts have inspired some other outreach ideas. A number of people have begun talking about starting a knitting/crocheting club to make scarves and other items to later donate to the Scott Mission; others have come forward, hoping to volunteer at the Mission on a more regular basis. DCS hopes to plan for similar events in the current year and to further increase volunteer involvement at other organizations. Judging from the feedback by participants, there should be no trouble finding helping hands for these future opportunities!
Events like the Thanksgiving Food Drive and the Christmas volunteering effort not only serve as an opportunity for individuals to help the needy, but also help foster a sense of community within the department. Volunteers leave with a rewarding experience, knowing, as Ursabia put it, “It could be anyone using the Scott Mission’s services, so by volunteering our time, we do our part to help the less-fortunate get back on their feet.” In a letter sent to DCS, the Scott Mission noted, “The kindness shown by the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto has enabled us to continue our work among the city’s poor at this special time of the year.” Kudos to DCS for making an impact - and a huge note of thanks to Lynda and Carolyn for spearheading these important endeavors.
*Photos from December 17 can be found here.
Story by Amna Iqbal, DCS Undergraduate student and Work-Study Communications Assistant