John Fenton Youth & Family Engagement Initiative

John Fenton at Coldnest Night of the Year, Winter Fundraising Walk
John Fenton training for CNOY 2021
Young John Fenton
John Fenton as a young boy

John Fenton, together with his wife Jonanne and family, steadfastly supported Yonge Street Mission’s work for as long as we have records. To explain his affiliation with YSM, John spoke how, at the age of 11, he first entered YSM and has held YSM’s work in his heart ever since. That fact is evidenced by many decades of giving, terms as Treasurer on YSM’s Board of Directors, and his tireless fundraising for and participation in our annual Coldest Night of the Year fundraising walk, even well after John started experiencing physical challenges.

Sadly, John passed on from his time on Earth on Saturday, May 6, 2023.

YSM's Tribute to John Fenton

As John was a source of loyal support, motivation and inspiration for YSM staff and community members for most of his life, YSM is honouring John’s legacy with the launch of a new program: the John Fenton Youth & Family Engagement Initiative. Its aim is to provide participants with a hands-on experience which enables young people to reflect on John’s commitment to service and use his extraordinary example to be inspired to begin journeying with YSM and the community members we serve.

John Fenton’s 80-year relationship with YSM began as an 11 year old boy who entered YSM’s Evergreen Centre with his father. Upon witnessing the struggles of the youth there, he was moved to action. That day defined his life of service to those in Toronto experiencing poverty. 

Our program, known in short as JFYF, will engage youth groups and families with pre-teen and teenagers to learn from John’s experience as they participate in actions to benefit struggling Toronto neighbours, so they may be inspired as John Fenton was.

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Our program, known in short as JFYF, will engage youth groups and families with pre-teen and teen members in actions to benefit struggling Toronto neighbours, so that they may be inspired as John Fenton was.

If you are a family or part of a youth group wishing to engage in volunteering at Yonge Street Mission, or just wish to learn more, contact Eleanor Edwards at 416-929-9614 x 4212, or email

Engaging Families and Youth in Ending Poverty in Toronto

This fall, YSM will be introducing a new youth and family engagement program, inspired by the experience of long-standing YSM advocate and supporter, John Fenton.

While just 11 years old, John was brought to YSM by his father, an experience he remembers vividly, one after which John vowed to commit himself to help community members encountering poverty.

For nearly 80 years, John has been involved with YSM in a variety of capacities – as a donor, board member, and active participant in our annual fundraising walk Coldest Night of the Year. Due to all he has contributed, YSM is launching our Youth & Family Engagement Program in tribute to John, and will name it in his honour.

The program will provide children aged 7 to 11, youth aged 12 to 17, and their families, – in addition to youth and school groups – with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of poverty in Toronto. Ultimately, it is our hope to inspire participants to contribute to YSM’s vision to end chronic poverty in our city.

YSM has created a wonderful children’s book which recounts John’s YSM experience as a young boy, and how it shaped his intention to help Toronto neighbours journey out of poverty. Illustrated by an incredibly talented high school student, Abigail Wong, the book features many fun activities and examples of what can be done to help end chronic poverty in our city.

If you would like to learn more about the program, please email Eleanor Edwards, YSM’s Community Engagement & Fundraising Specialist, at

GIVE 6IX logo

Feeling inspired? We’re inviting the city of Toronto to GIVE 6IX to “the Six” in any way, from anywhere, to help change the lives of neighbours struggling with poverty . . .

What’s your 6IX? Learn more and get inspired at