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Sunday, 24 December 2017

#12DaysOfGiving with Rinaldi Homes - Emma's Recovery

Emma's Recovery

Meet Emma! Emma is 10 years old and was recently diagnosed with a very rare disorder, Addison’s disease. A few months ago, her family had a very scary morning when Emma was found unresponsive in bed because all of her organs had shut down. For 8 weeks Emma’s parents have been by her side at McMaster - the good news is that all of her organs started functioning again and as the days passed she was able to move around a little on her own, talk a little, and eventually start eating some solid foods.

Due to some slight brain damage and some problems with her muscles, Emma will need extensive rehabilitation and therapy. Her family had to stay in Toronto for awhile to receive the treatments that she needed, but Emma is now home! She is starting to adjust to life at home again, she is transitioning back into school and being back with her friends. There is still a long road ahead and Emma is determined to work hard and make the best of it.

Emma with her parents Tracy & Andrew.

This year, we were happy to be able to help one of of our own. Stress around the holidays is always high and being thrown a curve ball like Emma's family definitely does not make things any easier. We wanted to help alleviate a bit of the stress by donating some gifts to Emma and her siblings, along with a special something for Tracy and Andrew.

Tracy with the gifts we delivered for Emma and her siblings.

"2017 has been a hard year for us, we have been put in a situation that we could never have imagined we would be in. Out of all of this we have learned to appreciate life a little bit more, to never take for granted what is in front of you and love what we have in our lives." - Tracy Vandermolens

Friday, 22 December 2017

#12DaysOfGiving with Rinaldi Homes - Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters St.Catharines-Thorold & District is the leading youth mentoring organization in Niagara. They have been supporting children and at-risk youth to become happier, healthier, more self-confident and an active citizen of our community since 1937.

More and more parents are looking for in-school and site-based mentorship programs for their children, it comes as no surprise as the results for the children are amazing:

  • 76% showed improved school grades
  • 80% have better school attendance
  • 82% have a better relationship with teachers
  • 90% get along better with their peers
Mentored youth are also 46% less likely to initiate drug use than children from similar socio-economic backgrounds who were not paired with a mentor.  The youth are not the only ones who benefit from such programs, as Canada saves $7,800 in incarceration costs for every youth that is prevented from being charged with drug possession. For every youth that is prevented from being charged with drug trafficking saves Canada $27,820 in incarceration costs. This means that for every 100 youth that are prevented from being incarcerated for 30 days, the justice system saves $1,033,200 - the cost of mentoring youth is just 10% of this number.

Though there are such huge benefits to the programs that BBBS offers, they receive no sustainable government funding. BBBS must raise 90% of their budget to maintain and grow the quality of their programs. They are always accepting of donations, as well as volunteers, especially male volunteers and mentors. 

Every year we attend the Niagara Home Builders' Association Christmas party and as an association we donate gifts to BBBS. It is usually at the beginning of December, and it is a great way to get into the holiday spirit!

NHBA presenting the donations to BBBS

Since our first year doing the #12DaysOfGiving, we have donated a group of tickets to the Niagara IceDogs game to BBBS. It a great way for the big brothers and big sisters to bring their mentees out for a game, and it's a special night right before Christmas!

Rinaldi Homes welcomes Big Brothers Big Sisters to the IceDogs game

Thanks Adam Maiolo for providing the facts and trends that BBBS has been seeing over the last year. 

Thursday, 21 December 2017

#12DaysOfGiving with Rinaldi Homes - Breakfast Club

Breakfast Club

We had so much fun last year at Breakfast Club with Canadian Martyrs that we wanted to give back to more children! So along with the help of Sunset Grill, we served breakfast at Canadian Martyrs and St. Nicholas schools this year.

The children were so excited and appreciative when they walked in and saw a special breakfast for them. Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, especially for growing children who need to concentrate at school. The teachers and EAs at both schools run amazing programs to ensure the students are ready to learn!

We have a lot of fun as a team interacting with the children. We also grew a greater appreciation for the patience that the teachers have with the students! The programs are different at both schools, but what they both have in common is that they have to work within a budget and a time restraint to make sure the children are fed well and able to make it to class on time.  

This year we were also able to bring a new crock pot to the teachers at Canadian Martyrs to help with their oatmeal breakfasts.

Joan and Victor prepared the plates at Canadian Martyrs.
This letter from the children at CM brought us to tears!

Matt and Don were serving up the pancakes and bacon.

The children at St.Nicholas were so appreciative of the breakfast!

#12DaysOfGiving with Rinaldi Homes - Out of the Cold


Out of the Cold

We started off this year by adding a few more volunteer days at the Out of the Cold program, helping to serve dinner. 

We had the opportunity to work alongside First Grantham United Church, Mountainview United Church and Covenant Church - some of the most compassionate people I have ever met! We walked into St.George's church and each week they invited us in as if we were family. Through their efforts at the church, every person who came in for dinner also received gifts. There was a variety of socks, warm winter items and necessities for those attending to take home. The team not only volunteers their time for dinner, but there are also night crews that come in throughout the night to help with those staying over.

The assembly line was ready to take on a big crowd, the previous week the Out of the Cold program served around 150 people - record numbers again this year!

Serving at Out of the Cold is one of the most humbling experiences during the holidays. It makes you really appreciate your family and everything you have, things we often take for granted!

The Out of the Cold program is run by Start Me Up Niagara, who works with individuals facing significant life changes such as addiction, mental illness, poverty, homelessness, and unemployment. They provide opportunities to improve health, increase community integration and support employment.

If you are looking to volunteer in the community, the Out of the Cold program runs from November 1st to March 31st, every day of the week, at various churches throughout Niagara.

Our crew volunteering at our 2nd week with Out of the Cold
Selena and Danielle helped prepare the dessert!

A special volunteer came out to help, Athena!

Friday, 15 December 2017

#12DaysOfGiving with Rinaldi Homes - Tool Box Project

Tool Box Project

Supporting Start Me Up Niagara

When looking for different organizations to add to our #12DaysOfGiving, I came across an article in the paper about James Symons and his Tool Box Project. After a bit of frustration of trying to find ways to give back to the homeless men in our community and not finding much, he came up with his own initiative. 

James began looking for donations - items of need and items of fun - to build "tool boxes" to give out to men living in poverty. With a soft spot for giving, he wanted everyone to feel appreciated and loved around the holidays. 

After reading this article, I thought it would be the perfect addition to our campaign as we had many initiatives giving back to the women and families in our community already.

We began collecting men's necessities in our office, along with fun items. Our team brought in an abundance of thermal socks, underwear, hats, scarves, gloves, hand warmers, chocolates, puzzle books and more. Then we began creating our tool boxes!

We had an assembly line to create our tool boxes!

James original goal was to have 25 boxes this year, when he came to visit us he had already skyrocketed past that goal with over 100! He has received an outpouring of generosity from the community and many local organizations reaching out to him to try and help. What started as a small project of James wanting to give back, has now grown into a much bigger thing. 

"It's our responsibility as citizens. We have to take care of each other," said Symons in the St.Catharines Standard article. "It's the small things that can make a big difference." Our vision of the #12DaysOfGiving aligned perfectly with James and his way of thinking. I am proud that our team was able to contribute 20 tool boxes this year!

Our tool boxes were all packed and ready to go, even Paco helped!

James, creator of the Tool Box Project, came to collect the tool boxes to deliver to SMUN.

#12DaysOfGiving with Rinaldi Homes - Youth Unlimited

Youth Unlimited

We see the hope and potential in every young person

If you aren't familiar with Youth Unlimited, it is a beacon of hope for the youth of Niagara. About a month ago we attended a fundraising breakfast for the centre, along with Mayor Walter Sendzik, where we learned of all their great doings. Since then we haven't been able to stop thinking about how we could help!

We recently toured their youth centre located on Merritt Street in St.Catharines, where we were able to meet the team behind the scenes. The Deck Youth Centre is a safe place for young people to be with caring adult volunteers. They have the opportunity to be confidentially mentored and to explore life-related concerns and issues.

The amazing team at Youth Unlimited!

Teen years are tough! Young people are faced with many challenges today - physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. They are also faced with finding a safe place to spend time with friends, and what to do when they get there. Rose and her team at Youth Unlimited join them on their journey and have developed many programs to help keep them engaged and facilitate healthy growth.

Youth Unlimited's programs include:
  •  Friday night drop-in at The Deck Youth Centre 7 to 10 pm (ages 13-19)
  •  Monday ‘Homework Helps’ 5 to 7 pm (all youth)
  •  Tuesday night ‘Girls Only’ small group 6:30 to 8:30 pm (ages 12- 19)
  •  Wednesday YPN—Young Pregnant in Niagara prenatal class 3:30 to 5:30 pm (up to age 23)
  •  Wednesday night ‘Man Time’ small group 7 to 9 pm (ages 13 to 19) 
  •  Thursday ‘Young Moms’ 4 to 7 pm (up to age 23)
  •  Summer camp and special events

The Youth Unlimited team meet the youth where they are at in their daily lives and offer friendship and support, a listening ear and helpful direction, as well as problem solving guidance and conflict resolution. The centre also includes a baby boutique (gently used baby clothes), teen closet (gently used clothes/shoes/gowns), and food pantry.

Touring through The Deck

With all of the positive work going on at the centre, they are looking to expand! They want to add a teaching kitchen space, more room for young moms and their children, and improve accessibility, among many other great features. That's why we have decided to partner with the centre, Rinaldi Homes has committed $25,000 to help the centre continue to provide amazing services to youth in Niagara!

We were able to attend the Young Moms Christmas party this week to present our donation, and they were so appreciative! There was so much joy and Christmas spirit filling the play rooms - with babies as young as 11 days old.

Youth Unlimited is always looking for more volunteers - women and men! If you would like more information visit for more information.

Presenting our donation to Youth Unlimited!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

#12DaysOfGiving with Rinaldi Homes - YWCA


It is easy around Christmas time to get swept up in the hustle and bustle - stressed out about what you have to buy for which family member, when to beat the mall rush - sometimes you need to just stop and reflect. We take for granted our families, the roof over our heads, the warm food at every meal, the clean pair of socks and underwear we have every morning. The 12 Days of Giving program allows us to connect with different charities throughout the holiday season and find out what is really going on in our community. It has also allowed us all to gain a much deeper appreciation for all that we have!

We were happy to once again include the YWCA as part of the 12 Days of Giving. The YWCA has been a staple in our community for over 89 years, providing essential programs and services to women and their families. The YWCA has done some amazing work this year, take a look at the stats:
  • 757 women and 122 children stayed in our Emergency Women’s Shelter - 1,036 women had to be turned away 
  • 78 individuals representing 14 families with 34 children stayed in our Emergency Family Shelters – 77 families are currently on the waiting list
  • 49 men with 15 children stayed in our Emergency Men’s and Family Shelter
  • Skills Development services were accessed by 3,635 individuals
  • Women’s Addiction Recovery Mediation (WARM) program was accessed by 54 women
  • Sex Trade On My Terms was accessed 753 times
  • 24 women stayed in our On Site Transitional Housing units
  • 46 women stayed in our Supported Transitional Housing units
  • 94 women, 5 men, and 63 children stayed in our Off Site Transitional Housing units
  • We served 94,691 meals

“With rising housing costs and increasing costs to rent as well as limited availability of safe, affordable housing options, we have seen longer stays in shelter and have been running at overcapacity for more than a year at almost 125% capacity." - Elisabeth Zimmerman, Executive Director at the YWCA

It is now more important than ever to give back, operating that high over capacity for such an extended period of time can put a lot of stress on organizations like the YWCA. This year we collected gifts and necessities to be given out to the women and families - everyone deserves something special for Christmas!

The tree is starting to get full of donations at our office!

Elisabeth continued to reiterate the consequences of the fact that our community is still struggling with not having enough safe, affordable housing, "We have also seen increasing waitlists for all of our programs meaning we have had to turn away many more women, men, and families than ever before. We have been using all of our possible resources including cots and couches, as we work hard to ensure women, children, and men have somewhere safe to rest their heads.”

Thank you YWCA for all that you do in our community, we look forward to our continued partnership!

Our first load of gifts for the YWCA!

Hand knit gloves and scarves for the children at the YWCA.