For the past five years, the Awesome Foundation Kingston has worked behind the scenes with some of the city’s most innovative and exciting individuals and organizations to advance their ‘awesome’ projects. For 10 months of the year, Awesome Kingston allows those locally with projects that could benefit from support and funding to apply for an Awesome Kingston micro-grant. Made up of 10 trustees (one of whom serves as the dean), Awesome Kingston offers a $1,000 no-strings-attached grant to the most awesome project presented at their monthly pitch parties – each trustee donates $100 from their own pocket to make up the $1,000 grant. The scope of the projects Awesome Kingston has supported is vast: art, culture, tech, charity, health, recreation… if the project is awesome and it helps make Kingston even more awesome than it already is, it can definitely be pitched.
We here at Kingstonist love the work Awesome Kingston has done and continues to do, and we wanted to develop a means to create more exposure for the awesome projects they support.
With that, we present to you Kingstonist’s Awesome Profiles, profiling the winners of each micro-grant and their awesome projects each month.
Loving Hands Kingston
Awesome Kingston grant winner September 2018
Note: due to the sensitive nature of the work this organization does, no last names will be used when referring to those with Loving Hands Kingston.
It’s been said that each cloud has a silver lining, and, if that’s true, then Loving Hands Kingston is the silver lining of a very big and very real issue here in Kingston.
Homelessness and poverty are major issues in Kingston, and the number of shelters and organizations that work tirelessly to help those issues has unfortunately dwindled. That’s where Loving Hands Kingston has stepped in to help.
It all started during the Christmas season of 2015. Maryann, founder of Loving Hands Kingston, was working with the rest of her team creating blessing bags – bags containing items like socks, toiletries, grooming supplies, and other necessities – to hand out at local shelters. It was in delivering those blessing bags and speaking with the staff at local shelters that Maryann and her partner, Lyle, discovered a huge gap.
“We got to know the staff, and got talking to them and got listening to them and their concerns. In listening to them, we noticed there were certain needs that we’re being met, or that they were having trouble to find,” Maryann said.
The gap often took the form of basic household items, clothing, and toiletries needed to help people transitioning from shelters into homes. Furniture was the hardest thing for shelter workers to find, and the reason for that is twofold, Maryann explained. First of all, most people try to sell off their used furniture, or otherwise donate it to the places that are simple to donate to like Value Village or the Salvation Army. The second reason is simply space. Unlike Value Village or the Salvation Army, local shelters don’t have the space to store donated items until they are needed, nor do they have the manpower to sort through donations.
After a lot of communication with those that work and run local shelters, the team at Loving Hands Kingston came up with a plan. They found a local storage company who gave them a reasonable rate on a storage unit, and now they are able to store furniture and other valuable items until they are needed. And the items like clean supplies, toiletries, and personal care items are purchased on an as-needed basis.
Loving Hands works directly with the shelters, where caseworkers fill out spreadsheets about a specific client’s needs. The organization then works to fill all of the client’s basic needs list, either by sourcing donations or purchasing needed items. Loving Hands Kingston even posts photos on social media of donated items in their new homes so that donors know where their items end up (the clients’ identities are always protected).
The group also assists the shelters themselves during times of need, offering supplies and bridging the gap between donors and recipients. For example, Loving Hands worked with Festival Botella to ensure any leftover food from the event went straight to local shelters.
For Maryann and her colleagues, it’s a labour of love, but it’s one that comes with a major reward.
“To see a little kid come to the door and they’re sad and they just don’t want to be there, and when all the items are moved in they say ‘can we stay overnight here?’ that is a reward,” she said.
“Seeing the inspiration that comes from what we do… the self-esteem rises in people, the self-confidence rises in people… that, to me, is more rewarding than a penny in my pocket.”
But, as Maryann is quick to point out, Loving Hands Kingston can’t do it alone.
“When we did Secret Santa last year, we got messages from residents saying ‘thank you, you guys are awesome,’ and there were staff members in tears saying ‘Wow, you did this?’” she said, recalling a holiday initiative Loving Hands Kingston took on last year.
“But no. Kingston did this. This is what a community should be about. It’s not supposed to be about taking all the time.”
What Maryann means is that without Kingstonians participating in the various fundraising initiatives Loving Hands Kingston runs throughout the year, the organization wouldn’t be able to do what they do.
So what kind of fundraising initiatives does Loving Hands Kingston employ? Well, it just so happens one is coming up!
On Saturday, Oct. 27, Loving Hands Kingston will host a Halloween Vendors Market and Craft Fair from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Princess Street United Church (484 Albert Street). With local vendors and artists all gathered in one place, it’s a great way to get a head start on shopping for the holidays, all while supporting a good cause. Admission for the event is free. Loving Hands Kingston will have a raffle table set up where attendees can purchase three raffle tickets towards some great prizes for $5, and all proceeds will go to Loving Hands. The organization will also have a donation station set up at the event to receive new toiletries, socks, underwear, school snacks, and non-perishable foods that will distributed to local shelters and non-profit agencies. Bring what you can donate, and enjoy a fun day in the name of community.
To find out more about Loving Hands Kingston, visit their Facebook page here. A list of all of the shelters and non-profits that Loving Hands works with is available there. You can also visit their website here to find out all about their projects throughout the year and ways you can help.