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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Day ELEVEN: Spreading the Holiday Spirit!

Today we were all over for the #12DaysOfGiving! We started off delivering a tray of lunch meats and buns to Start Me Up Niagara. They serve lunch on the weekends and usually offer snacks and a warm cup of coffee during the week for lunch. What a great organization!

Then we travelled around to all of our sites to spread the holiday spirit! To show appreciation to our site guys and trades we delivered coffee and timbits. Here's the crew out at Optimist, Tetherwood, Coyle Court and Rosewood!

To top it off, our Construction Manager got an early Christmas gift from our Design team - a nice new custom hard hat! (The front says Design Diva, the back says "In training")

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Day TEN: Animals Need Love Too!

Today along with the help of Brigit & Arthur from Pet Valu Welland, we donated items for all of the animals at the Lincoln County Humane Society. Thanks to Brigit for helping us out with donations! We were able to donate hay for the bunnies, litter, toys and food for the cats, and treats for the dogs. It was so amazing to walk through and see a majority of the animals already adopted!

Lincoln County Humane Society has been protecting animals since 1881. Dealing with a diverse animal population they are faced with many different situations, oftentimes in severe climate conditions.

The Lincoln County Humane Society is a charitable not-for-profit organization dedicated to the humane treatment of all animals; to alleviate their suffering and neglect, support the human-animal bond and foster an environment in which people respect all living creatures. They provide safe refuge and compassionate care for animals.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Day NINE: Community Care is much more than just a food bank!

Community Care, St. Catharines & Thorold has been meeting the needs of the less advantaged in our community since 1919. The fundamental principles on which the agency was founded have not changed. Community Care compassionately provides vital services and assistance to individuals and families that meet their basic needs and help bridge their journey to self-sufficiency.

Fast Facts

Community Care currently offers 18 programs

1,850 households have access to food security each month

4,000 pounds of food is distributed daily, 5 days a week

40 per cent of our food bank clients are children

We will assist over 3,000 families with our Christmas program

Over 200 volunteers help out on a weekly basis in St. Catharines and Thorold

1 can of donated food is one can of food we did not have the day before

Want to know more facts? Learn more here

Community Care clients say it best...

"Community Care went beyond what would be required to ensure that I had proper housing first and foremost...and nurtured me back to a place where I once again am beginning to feel as if I belong to this community."

"Having warm water for the first time in 6 weeks meant warm baths for all of us. Thank you for giving us back our dignity."

"I have a new outlook on life with a brand new smile on my face. I am no longer in pain with my infected teeth, and I enjoy smiling!"

"My son went to school in his new sneakers today with his new backpack. He was happy to go back to school for the first time ever."

"Thank you for listening...that is all I needed today."

Our tree is full again, this time with food and winter clothing donations - awaiting a new home with Community Care!

"A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal."
- Steve Maraboli

Day EIGHT: Giving Thanks

As a continuation from our last blog post, I just wanted to share this video with everyone and extend a few thank you's.

Thank you to the organizations that allowed us to partner with them - The Kristen French Advocacy Centre Niagara, Project Share, Start Me Up Niagara & Out of the Cold, Community Care, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Niagara Health System, and the YWCA. You have really opened our eyes this holiday season and allowed us to truly be grateful for everything we have.

Thank you to our team here at Rinaldi Homes - thanks for all of your generosity, there will be women, men and children receiving gifts for the first time; children with toys to comfort them before going into surgery; families with warm clothes to get through the cold winter nights; and brave children with warm winter items as a sign of their courage.

Also, thank you to our team for all of their hard work this year. We have grown so much over the last couple years and brought the company to new heights. We are so proud of our accomplishments and can't wait to keep pushing the boundary in 2016!

Thank you to all of our trades and companies that we work with on a daily basis. As we grow and continue to push for a high standard of quality, our expectations are exceeded every time by the hard work of our trades.

"It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy."

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Day SEVEN: It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

We are just over half way through our #12DaysOfGiving, and that means we are so close to Christmas! Have you finished all of your shopping yet?!

It's a crazy time of year, with all of the hustle and bustle around the malls, we don't seem to have much time to slow down and really appreciate the things around us. The 12 Days of Giving has really given us a chance to be grateful for everything we have! It's been a time to reflect on so many things that we take for granted.

Think about your morning routine - you get up, have a shower, eat breakfast and rush off to work in your car. You don't really think too much about it. You always have shampoo, conditioner and soap handy in the shower, fresh clothes to put on and you struggle over the decision if you want a bagel or a smoothie for breakfast. What I've realized over the last couple of days, is that even that warm shower I wake up to every morning is a luxury! Some people (more than you might have ever thought right here in Niagara) are struggling to eat everyday, let alone put a roof over their head.

Tonight we will give thanks and be grateful, as our whole team comes together to celebrate our accomplishments in the past year and what's to come! The most important thing is that we will all be together and we can share in the happiness of the season. Along with our Christmas party tonight, we will be collecting food and winter items to be donated to Community Care.

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving"
- Mother Teresa

Friday, 18 December 2015

Day SIX: A place to go. A place to be somebody. A place to do something.

Start Me Up Niagara (SMUN) began as one of five sites opened in 1999 by the National Network for Mental Health to offer self employment services to people who self identified as mental health consumer survivors and wanted to start a business. This pilot project was funded by Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) to determine whether self employment was a viable work option that could improve the unacceptably low participation rate of this group in the labour market.

During its first year SMUN found that self employment was a good option for a few people but that others needed different options. It also found that mental illness was only one of the issues that  eople accessing self employment services faced. Poverty, unemployment, homelessness compounded by disabilities, poor health, isolation impacted lives and created barriers that prevented an acceptable quality of life.

In response to these findings and with the help of community members who wanted to make a difference, Start Me Up Niagara was incorporated as a charitable organization in September 2000. It works with individuals who are having a difficult time at this point in their lives. Start Me Up offers a variety of opportunities that improve health, increase the level of community integration, support housing and employment.

Start Me Up and Out of the Cold work closely together to make sure that anyone who doesn't have a place to call home, has a safe place to go through the holiday season and beyond! Out of Cold is open every night from November 1 - March 31 serving a hot supper to all who come. They also provide a warm bed for anyone needing a place to sleep overnight. It closes every morning at 7:30.

Start Me Up is open during the day, 365 days a year. It is a safe welcoming place with multiple resources that help individuals get started again. Services include daily drop in, housing and employment supports. In 2015 the SMUN Centre has hosted approximately 30,000 drop in visits with Out of the Cold providing 3,500 nights accommodation and over 20,000 meals. Both Out of the Cold and Start Me Up Niagara are busy happening places that serve many of the most vulnerable people in our community.

Tonight we will be volunteering at Knox Church to help serve dinner!

"The greatest gift you can give someone is your TIME. Because when you give your time, you are giving a portion of your life that you will never get back." 

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Day FIVE: Empowering Youth Through Mentorship

Big Brothers was founded in St. Catharines on May 28, 1937. As Canada’s leading child and youth mentoring charity, Big Brothers Big Sisters facilitates life-changing relationships that inspire and empower children and youth to reach their potential, both as individuals and citizens. In the past year, Big Brothers Big Sisters served 1037 children! Wondering how it is possible to pull all of this off? There are 542 volunteers who gave their time to provide friendships and guidance to the young children of our community.

The Mentoring Effect

"Mentoring is the key to unlocking a young person’s potential and making a lifelong impact. through our research, carefully documented outcomes and evaluation process, we at Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Catharines- thorold & district know that mentorship positively and dramatically alters the course of a young person’s life and the volunteer’s life too." - Dale J Davis, CEO

Changing the course of young lives changes the future of communities. Big Brothers Big Sisters returns positive results in the mental health, employment and civic engagement of the recipients of our mentoring programs. In a recent Social Return and Investment Study, $1 invested in mentoring by Big Brothers Big Sisters returns $18 to society!

The effect of mentoring on youth:

63% of mentored youth went on to have post secondary education

Adults who had a mentor in their youth earn $315,000 more income in their lifetime.

47% hold senior leadership positions.

Teens who engage in mentoring are 1/2 as likely to engage in alcohol and drug use.

Boys are 2 times less likely to engage in bullying.

Girls are 4 times less likely to engage in bullying.

Volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters
Have you been thinking that mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters only includes one-to-one, long-term matches? Think again!

Big Brothers Big Sisters offers a wide range of mentoring opportunities to meet the varied needs of volunteers, children and families.

Serving as role models, our mentors teach by example the importance of giving and giving back, of staying in school, and for having respect for family, peers and community
Mentoring Programs include:

  • Big Brothers Mentoring
  • Big Sisters Mentoring
  • In-School Mentoring
  • Big Bunch
  • Go Girls! Group Mentoring
  • Game On! Group Mentoring 
  • Enrol a Little
  • Kids Corner

Rinaldi Homes Welcomes Big Brothers Big Sisters to the Ice Dogs Game!
We donated 20 tickets to Big Brothers Big Sisters for children and mentors to attend the game tonight. We are so excited to share in a great night! Keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for live pics at the game. GO DOGS GO!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Day FOUR: Hope for Homeless Women and their Families since 1927

Established in 1927, in an effort to respond to identified needs in the community. The YWCA Niagara Region has a long standing history of providing safe, supportive housing and programs directed to the development of homeless and impoverished women and their children.

As the largest provider of Emergency Shelter in the Niagara Region and a recognized expert among funders and community agencies, the YWCA offers innovative housing programs and services that provide hope for women and their families living in poverty. The YWCA provides shelter and programs, including:
  • Two 20 bed emergency homeless shelters across the region
  • 6 apartments throughout Niagara, which serve as emergency shelter for families
  • 3 phases of transitional housing across Niagara
  • Skill development programming, including at-school programming for youth
  • A new modified men's shelter
  • A new family shelter that will be built in 2016

Curious how many individuals in Niagara the YWCA has helped?
The YWCA helped 1254 women, 444 children, and 71 families last year. In 2014/2015, 1254 women, 444 children, and 71 families stayed in YW Emergency Shelter last year. They served over 59,835 meals and 4,414 women took part in their skill development programs. 

The YWCA is committed to social change and work to create a community that supports women who are living in poverty and provide support through each step towards financial stability and independent living.

What a humbling experience - bringing over 330 items to be added to the many donations they have already received for the Christmas program this year. All being sorted by volunteers to be packaged and given to over 300 women, men and children! Some of these individuals may have never received a gift before, so having something to open on Christmas is such a special experience (and something many of us take for granted). It's amazing to see the impact such a small gesture can have! 

A Year to Transform Margaret - A Success Story
How much time do you think it would take to get your life in order when it’s brought you to a place you never imagined you’d be? This varies from person to person depending on their commitment to change and Margaret exhibited unmatched drive from the very beginning.

Leaving behind her old life meant starting fresh. Without the trust of her family, Margaret bravely set out to navigate her own journey on the road toward independence. Coming to the YWCA Women’s Shelter was no easy task, but moving on meant leaving a home that held too many memories of a lifestyle best left behind. Margaret faced her fear of strangers as she joined the other guests at the Shelter, unsure if she could even trust the Women’s Advocates.

Margaret proved to be the definition of not only a success story, but a woman of inspiration. She is who I think of when I consider how I would react if ever faced with hardships that challenged my every concept of existence.

Read more about Margaret's story here!

Do you want to learn more about the YWCA and their programs?

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Day THREE: Project SHARE = Support. Housing. Awareness. Resources. Emergency.

Project SHARE started back in 1989 and was formerly known as C.O.E.S. (Community Outreach Emergency Services). The offices were located within a small building on Victoria Avenue.

In 1992, the agency became incorporated and changed its name to Project SHARE, with the acronym meaning Support, Housing, Awareness, Resources and Emergency. The name change was accompanied with a move of their offices to 1st Avenue. By 2002, the organization found a need for a bigger building due to the increase in demand of its services. Project SHARE then relocated to Stanley Avenue, where they currently are situated.

Project SHARE serves individuals living in poverty in the Niagara Falls community by:

  • Addressing the short-term need for food and creating long-term solutions for food security
  • Mobilizing resources in the community
  • Adapting services to respond to changes around us

Project SHARE has numerous programs to help the community:

An average of 100 families go to Project SHARE every day for emergency food. 30% of those are children. The most requested items in their food room is fresh fruits and vegetables.

Individuals were helped with emergency food 39,671 times during the last fiscal year! Over 800,000 lbs of food is distributed each year. The food bank usage has doubled since the 2008 recession.

The Christmas Program provides a holiday meal and gifts for children ages 16 and under. An average of 4500 Niagara Falls residents are helped each year through this program. The items that are most needed are peanut butter, canned fruit, canned fish and gifts for teenagers.

Project SHARE is more than just a food bank and runs several support programs including Homelessness Prevention Program, Clothing Referrals, Funding for Emergency Utility Assistance, Funding for Emergency Prescriptions, Recreation Funding Programs and more! There are also educational programs including 2 community garden sites, cooking and canning workshops, as well as healthy recipes to help increase food security.

This year, we partnered with Project SHARE to sponsor a family of five. It was so exciting to buy for the children, and give a little something special for the parents who might not be able to treat themselves very often! We had Santa Don help deliver the presents, with his decked out work truck - if you look close you can see the Christmas lights lining his truck.

Project SHARE helps residents of Niagara Falls who are living below the poverty line as defined by Statistics Canada. Each client must show proof of residency, income and dependants every time they come to Project SHARE. For more information on programs and services, please visit or call 905-357-5121.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Day TWO: Together in Excellence - Leaders in Healthcare

Dropping off donations to the TLC team

What a change healthcare in Niagara has seen over the last couple of years! 

Since the St.Catharines NHS Site has opened, thousands of patients have benefitted from new and expanded regional services that brought care closer to home in a state-of-the-art-facility. 

We partnered with the NHS to donate colouring books, crayons, candy canes and toys to the Children's Unit. The unit is specifically designed for younger patients and their families, with vibrant colours, a play room, artwork on the walls, special lighting, a family apartment suite, a family lounge and other unique features. We hope the toys and activity books will help comfort the children and brighten their day while they are in the hospital, especially those that are spending the holidays there. Bringing the donations to the charities is the most rewarding part, today we donated over 95 children's items to the NHS!

I think the proof of their impact is in the facts:

  • For the first time in Niagara, residents of the peninsula had access to a full spectrum of cancer care including radiation therapy through the hospital’s Walker Family Cancer Centre. 7,600 radiation treatments were provided to 700 patients.
  • Almost 1,300 cardiac care patients were able to receive diagnostic procedures at the Heart Investigation Unit (HIU). The opening of the HIU has meant access to cardiac catheterization, and as of April 2014, interventional care (stents) for the first time in the region.
  • Approximately 2,700 babies have been born at the St. Catharines Site new regional Women’s and Babies’ Unit. The patients and specialized team in this program have benefited from being in one location with the availability of concentrated expertise and training, and a multidisciplinary environment.   
  • The Mental Health and Addictions Program has started seven new programs, hired 105 new staff members, and recruited seven new psychiatrists with an additional four to join the team in 2014. The availability of new longer-term mental health care has meant that many patients and families no longer have to travel outside the region for care.
  • The Kidney Care Program has expanded its care model to include a community-based satellite Kidney Care Centre in Niagara Falls; the first of its kind in the region. The Niagara Falls program has provided 15,400 treatments to 80 patients. NHS now provides dialysis across the region; in Welland, St. Catharines, and Niagara Falls. 
  • The NHS’s Niagara District Stroke Centre at the Greater Niagara General Site continues to have the best “door-to-needle time” (the amount of time patients wait to receive life-saving t-PA) in the province at an average of 31 minutes.
  • The Welland Site opened a Respirology Clinic and has been building a regional Comprehensive General Ambulatory Ophthalmology Program. The program has performed 5,600 cataract surgeries and had patient 2,200 visits.
  • The Douglas Memorial, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Fort Erie sites have focused on building improved specialized complex and palliative care services.

The NHS is always looking for volunteers, especially in the Emergency Department to escort children and parents to children's surgeries and for pre-natal tours. If you are interested in a rewarding experience giving back in our community, check out

"At the end of the day it's not about what you have or even what you've accomplished... it's about who you've lifted up, who you've made better. It's about what you've given back." 
- Denzel Washington

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Day ONE: A Safe Place to Help, Heal & End Child Abuse

The first organization that we partnered with for the #12DaysOfGiving is the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre!

I was first introduced to the Kristen French CACN when we participated in their first annual Playhouse Competition! It was such a fun event and it allowed me to be introduced to such an amazing organization in our community. I toured their facility and heard about all of the great work they do for children and families.

As the first dedicated standalone CAC of it's kind in Canada, the Kristen French CACN provides our region with a child-focused and trauma-informed leading practice approach to the investigation and treatment of child abuse. Before the Niagara region had the Kristen French CACN, children and youth were subjected to multiple interviews at multiple locations.

Before CACN
After CACN

I think it's time to hear some stats to realize their true impact in our community:

Niagara Regional Police Service reports at least ONE case of sexual or physical assault on children or youth is investigate each day in our region!! 

In 2013 alone, Niagara Regional Police Service investigate close to 400 cases of child abuse related reports in our region alone.

Since opening in the fall of 2008, almost 2100 children/youth and their caring family members have found a safe place to disclose abuse. 

Most often, 94% of the time, children interviewed at the Center know their alleged abuser. Without help and support, the long term impacts of abuse can be devastating.

On average ONE interview per day takes place at the Kristen French CACN.

Now that you know about their amazing work, let's get to the GIVING! We donated over 70 warm winter items to the centre that they will use to decorate their Christmas tree. When children are done being interviewed, to acknowledge their courage they are given a stuffed animal or a warm winter item that they can take home with them. The staff at the Kristen French CACN are so incredible and they help people feel safe and comfortable during a difficult process, we are glad we could help!

If you want to learn more about the centre, visit

"We make a LIVING by what we GET, but we make a LIFE by what we GIVE." - Winston Churchill


Our office has been buzzing and I am so excited to tell you about our holiday program this year!
This season is all about GIVING and why not try and give back to as many people as possible. We want everyone to share in the joy this Christmas and have an amazing holiday season, so we decided to partner with several different charities in Niagara for #12DaysOfGiving! We have been collecting items for the Kristen French Centre, Niagara Health System, YWCA, Project Share, and Community Care. Throughout the 12 days we will be posting pictures of all the goodies we have collected in the office and delivering them to the organizations. We are almost running out of space in our office under the tree - I am so proud with how much our team has stepped up to this huge task!

Make sure you are following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - starting on Sunday, December 13th we will be posting all about the charities and programs we have partnered with. We are so excited to tell you about the amazing work that they all do! 

"Happiness does not result from what we get, but what we give." - Ben Carson