The bell rang and the school day ended. Jonathan sprang from his desk and made a beeline for the door. "Yes!" he thought. "I get to play sports with my friends!" But Jonathan didn't go down to the school gymnasium or the basketball courts outside. Instead, he jogged down the sidewalk towards The Neighborhood Centre. There, he found his two closest friends already passing a basketball back and forth. They were all part of The Nook, a program within the Christie Ossington Neighborhood Center that offers after-school and summer programs for local at-risk children in the Toronto area.
Each day after school, 35-40 children between the ages of 6-12 come to The Nook. During that time, they have a brief snack and then decide whether to do an art project, play sports, or get homework help from staff and volunteers. Some stay until 6 in the evening.
The Nook is a free program for all families, however prioritize to children who come from families new to Canada, learning English, single parent homes or from families living at or below the poverty line—families that wouldn't otherwise have access to costly organized sports or after-school child care programs.
The Nook's summer program is also a low cost service. In summer, 60-70 children spend six hours with Nook staff and volunteers on weekdays. One day during the 2012 summer program, a student located the one by one® program, an in-kind grant for American and Canadian nonprofit organizations offered by 4imprint®.
The student turned to Jenn Irving, The Nook's Art and Literacy Coordinator, to ask if she could pursue it. "I said yes," said Jenn. "Then we wrote it together and tried to decide what do we need and how could we give back to the program."
Together, they settled on T-shirts for the summer camp program staff and volunteers.
When staff and volunteers came out with the T-shirts, "It was like [the kids] felt like this was a family; like they belong," explains Jenn. "They were able to identify with something. We didn't have anything like that before."