The Toolbox Project has completed its 2018 campaign having surpassed the founder’s goals. James Symons sought to create 500 care packages for men experiencing homelessness and poverty in the community; the final figure exceeded 550 boxes.
The campaign, designed to create care packages for men in need in the Niagara region, launched in August when Mayor Walter Sendzik donated the first Toolbox.
Each box contains items such as toothbrushes, razors, gift cards and warm socks.
According to ToolBox Project founder James Symons, delivering the assembled boxes, with his father’s assistance, was a positive experience.
“One gentleman told me he was always told Santa Claus was just a dream,” said Symons. “He said that night he might have to believe.”
The road to delivery day was long, including support from a variety of community members. Brock alumni-run Relentless Fitness and MMA ran a collection event, filling three storage bins. Chris Green, also an alumnus, drove a vehicle that quickly became filled during the Labour Day parade. Brock contributed through efforts organized by Student Life and Community Experience. St. Louis Bar and Grill hosted a fundraiser that brought $600 to the cause.
Media coverage of the campaign became pivotal, according to Symons.
“BrockTV, along with CH news [requested] on camera interviews at the Thorold Community Activities Centre,” said Symons. “This was gaining momentum.”
The campaign was also covered in several local newspapers, including The Brock Press in November.
Following the on-camera interviews, support continued to increase as churches became involved, as well as Heatherwood Retirement Home.
While many contributed, some in particular became fierce advocates for the campaign, including Wendy Ferguson, who, alongside her husband, stored assembled and wrapped boxes in her basement.
“[She] made her basement the North Pole of Niagara,” said Symons.
Some of the finished boxes were even decorated by hand, encouraging words painted on them, courtesy of two schools in the region.
According to Symons, the campaign was able to support men experiencing homelessness both in and outside of shelters.
“I was also able to hand out the boxes to individuals who did not use the shelters but chose the street instead,” said Symons. “This was eye-opening.”
Throughout his experiences working with men who face homelessness and poverty, Symons has worked to spread a message of support.
“I encourage those experiencing poverty to not give up,” said Symons. “There are amazing support groups who care.”
Symon’s advocacy and activism is still going strong as he continues to plan an event in May to provide men in need with free makeovers to assist in job hunting and boost self-esteem. He is also planning several more fundraisers for the Toolbox Project throughout the year.
“I am not slowing down,” said Symons.