The Power of One

Did you see today’s Google Doodle?

For 67 years Nelson Mandela fought in a lopsided battle for justice. “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” he said famously. Today marks the fifth annual “Nelson Mandela International Day” where people are asked to help others for 67 minutes – one minute for every year that Mr. Mandela served the public. Mandela Day is a global call to action that celebrates the idea that YOU have the power to make a difference in the world.

To unite in the global cause to end poverty, promote peace and reconciliation in the next six to seven minutes you can partner with us.

Here’s how you can make a difference.

Our food bank shelves are nearly bare. And we urgently need your help. One out of three food bank users are children. Your $20 gift feeds 40 hungry children and you can give now.

In 67 minutes you can kick-start a food drive with your colleagues at work, with your friends and family, or with your church group. Click here to learn more in how you can help!

Or, you can volunteer with us. You’ll find that there are plenty of ways you can help.

All it takes is one person with a vision, dedication, and energy to inspire others to give. Will you be that one?



Leslie Bernardo Tribute Obituary

Leslie Bernardo photo

Photo courtesy of The Charis Foundation

The Yonge Street Mission is thankful for Mrs. Leslie Bernardo (nee: Johnson) who peaceably passed away in her home on the evening of June 18th. Leslie has been a lifelong friend and supporter of The Yonge Street Mission; more than that she has been a core member of the Mission family.

It is impossible to reflect on the past 50 years of The Yonge Street Mission’s life without acknowledging the consistent and significant presence of Leslie and Robert Bernardo. Leslie and Bob formed The Charis Foundation in 1995 as a means of responding to the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of people in our community and around the world. However, long before this they had built a reputation as compassionate and gracious Christians and philanthropists.

Leslie was a kind and joyful woman who was quick with a word of encouragement and equally quick to celebrate the Mission’s accomplishments and victories.

Leslie supported the Mission through her Murias Holdings Ltd., but perhaps even more importantly, she provided direct support to community and staff members in the midst of personal crisis. On numerous occasions Leslie quietly came along side an individual in need, ensuring that they had the resources to maintain their dignity and quality of life.

Conversely she was a skilled philanthropist who could ask the questions which got to the very heart of a request or need.

Beyond the development of Foundations and a lifetime of generosity, Leslie and Bob were a warm and loving Christian couple whose life together was marked by an abiding trust in Jesus and faithful prayer for the people and causes to which they had committed themselves. Their deep faith has shaped the culture and direction of The Yonge Street Mission for decades and we have no doubt that it will continue to do so for well into the future.

Leslie’s life and presence consistently embodied grace, even in the midst of hardships.  Her gentle and quiet wisdom had a direct and lasting impact on both The Yonge Street Mission’s Board Members and its leadership staff.

To family and friends we offer condolences and we pray that Jesus will be your peace and comfort in the days ahead. With Leslie we rejoice as she rejoins Bob and her family for all eternity. Leslie we thank you for your gentle wisdom and for a lifetime of prayerful and gracious support.

For those who wish to honour Leslie, memorial gifts may be made to The Yonge Street Mission, 306 Gerrard Street East, Toronto, ON M5A 2G7 (416-929-9614), or to the charity of your choice.

Mike “Pinball” Clemons Motivates to Believe in the Impossible

Children flourish in The Yonge Street Mission’s computer lab programs, rarely missing a class, eagerly learning the skills that build their confidence opening the door to life-long learning opportunities. Many of our graduates receive either a refurbished computer or a labtop by the completion of the course.
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A four time Grey Cup champion and CFL All-Star, Mike “Pinball” Clemons, visited our semi-annual computer lab graduation on May 28th, 2014. We were pleasantly welcomed!  The 64 students present were excited as he inspired them to pursue higher education and to believe in the impossible.
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Claude Turcotte, from Dell Canada was also there to congratulate the students on their achievement.  Each student earned a computer to take home and the high school students earned laptop computers, donated by The Sky’s The Limit and the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation.

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This popular after-school program has worked with over 2,000 children since 1999. Over 220 children and youth register for two yearly terms and we always have a waiting list for the 12 courses offered. To learn more about our highly successful and popular computer program click here.

The Mike “Pinball” Clemons Foundation will be at The Yonge Street Mission again, on Wednesday June 4th from 9:30am – 12:00pm, at 310 Gerrard Street East painting our computer lab as part of their “Just Give” campaign.  Want to come?

10th Annual Community Book Fair

Book FAIR Poster ONLY for 2014 IN JPG

This will be The Yonge Street Mission’s (YSM) 10th Annual Community Book Fair – a time to promote literacy, education and reading enjoyment.  Over 30,000 books will be freely shared.  Please join us to get books for you and your friends and family. Come and enjoy complimentary Starbucks coffee.

We hope to see you here June 14, 16, 17, 18 and 19!

Sign up on YSM’s Facebook!  Share with your friends.

Follow us on Twitter @YSM_TO!

Celebrate with us #YSMBookFair


Youth United in Visionary Action Demonstrate Hope for Toronto Centre


By: Helen Choi

A group of youth, 12-14 years of age, are taking their action plans to their constituency leaders and inspiring policy makers to take part in cleaning up their neighborhood. Hard hitting topics such as bullying, gender inequality in sports, gang violence and littering are on the top of the list this year.

In partnership with World Vision, The Yonge Street Mission developed a youth leadership and social justice program called Youth United in Visionary Action (YUVA). The past month, YUVA’s presented a series of community action plans of pressing concern for youth living with poverty. They made these presentations to Toronto-Centre’s MPP Glen Murray and Toronto Centre-Rosedale City Councillor Pam McConnell at Toronto’s City Hall, and then to National Chief Shawn Atleo in Ottawa. YUVA’s in return gained face-to-face invaluable insight on civic engagement from political dignitaries.

“We are thrilled with the impact that the youth are having in their community because of the YUVA program! Kids are becoming strong, positive, and effective leaders, and their lives are transforming because of it” says Natasha Armstrong, YUVA Manager.


Now in the execution phase of their action plans, the youth have met regularly with other youth led groups, such as the St. James Town Youth Council, and have organized an upcoming “Community Clean-Up Day”. MPP Glen Murray and over 150 people are expected to participate.

Community Clean Up Day

What: Help YUVA Youth pick up litter and beautify the St. James Town neighbourhood

Date: May 10th

Time: 10am-1pm

Meet: 225 Wellesley Street East

To register or to learn more contact 416-929-9288. Natasha Armstrong, YUVA Manager.

Provide a Meal and Touch a Life


While Easter can be a time of celebration for family and friends, the holiday can also be a sad and isolating time for many people.  Members of The Yonge Street Mission’s (YSM) low-income community in Toronto often have limited resources, nowhere to go, and no one to spend the time with during the Easter season.  However, people who are underprivileged or alone can find hope thanks to the generosity of community volunteers, donors and YSM.

Dedicated volunteers serve meals, spend time with people in the community followed by a special banquet thanks to generous donors. This does not include the fact that YSM-wide has over 100 programs and services, providing hundreds of meals per service areas. This means, for a high need season like Easter, thousands of meals will be shared. However, this may sound like a lot of food, in reality the demand is greater than supply.

Annually, over 140,000 meals are served and donations are accepted year round. People interested in volunteering their time to help make a difference or donating a meal to a deserving person should visit The fastest and easiest way to donate is with a click of a button here. For $3.11 you can provide a meal, or you can feed an entire table of 10 people for $31.10.


Since 1896, The Yonge Street Mission’s meal has symbolized a new beginning for hungry and hurting people. For homeless youth, the meal means taking a positive step towards a new life as they are introduced to health and counselling, housing supports and job training. For seniors, coming out of their small, crowded, isolated apartments and reconnecting with friends is critically important. And for new immigrants, a meal can be a chance to build new and rewarding friendships.

Above all, it’s heartbreaking to see children or anyone in our community hungry and hurting. It’s amazing how a simple meal can touch a life, and you can help today!


Yonge Street Mission’s Christmas Banquet Story


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YSM’s Children’s Program

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YSM’s Women and Family Program


By: Julie Maclean

Women and family and children’s program joined forces again this year for the annual Christmas banquet. We were excited to invite the children’s families and had activities lined up for the children and the parents.

Our afternoon began with a poem about the Regent Park revitalization and a prayer. Markers, stickers, baubles, boughs and berries were laid on top of paper table clothes so everyone could draw, decorate and make festive holiday centrepieces to take home.

We had an amazing volunteer group of friends and families who bought, prepared and served our food. The children wanted to help. They asked for hair nets and distributed stickers. Everyone enjoyed making their own tacos and ice cream sundaes. One special volunteer and her mum brought in delicious homemade Christmas cookies. They have been joining us for years and look forward to meeting old friends annually!

The food was a new taste treat for one mother from Afghanistan.  Her daughters loved the tacos and she decided that she is going to try making them at home. Our volunteers dined with us and made new friends. It was such a warm and friendly environment.

Ukulele riffs, rap and Bieber at St. James Town Youth Council’s Urban Flair talent show

Urban Flair

By Bethany Van Lingen

A Justin Bieber medley, followed by a complicated ukulele riff, then a rap number opened the Urban Flair Talent show on Thursday, August 22, 2013.  A dramatic monologue was so intensely performed that a prop cane snapped in two.  A complex martial arts routine with twirling nunchucks was so realistic it made a little girl in the audience cover her eyes.  A neighbourhood kid got up to dance enthusiastically in front of the stage during a particularly good set, much to the chagrin of his sister.  Through these acts and more, St. James Town youth had an opportunity to showcase their artistry and delight their audience at Urban Flair.

Committee chair Fionna Gan brought together the 11 performances by 14 artists at the neighbourhood’s largest event, which ran from 6 to 8 pm on the Wellesley Community Centre lawn.  From high school to now third year of university in engineering, Fionna has led the Urban Flair talent show to its fifth year.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say it was life-changing to work with such a group of dedicated and driven young people at St. James Town Youth Council,” Fionna said.

Fionna is one of 7 to 8 community youth on the Urban Flair committee.  Four youth were hired and paid a honourarium as event organizers.

“The youth running the program are extremely passionate, very organized, very focused and they really love their community. The performers are hard-working and brave. They inspire me,” said Angeline Tetten-Wayoe, FLOW 93.5’s “Miss Ange” and judge for the evening’s performances.

Urban Flair began in 2009 and was attended by 800 people, making it one of the biggest events the Council put on in their first year.  Since then, Urban Flair has continued to draw 500 to 600 people, including friends and parents supporting the performers and St. James Town community members.

Hundreds in the audience were not disappointed with the high-caliber performers.  Christian Chadwick Sabado won first place with his rendition of the song “Mama Knows Best”, Gaston Pistan took second with a dramatic monologue and the Jiggly Jammers third with a vocal and guitar summer mash-up.  For the Jiggly Jammers, this was the first time they had ever performed publically.

“My cousins and I saw the flyer in the neighbourhood and they asked me if we should apply. I said, ‘Why not? Let’s do it.’ I’m glad we did,” said Jona Krista Yalong, a member of the Jiggly Jammers.

Playing live at Urban Flair gave first time performers like the Jiggly Jammers much-needed encouragement.

“We have three youth performing who are very talented but also shy. Performing at Urban Flair will help them connect to the community and it will be a quicker transition to fit into this family of cultures.  I’m amazed that I can make such a difference,” Fionna said.

Community youth are also able to find the social services they need, by auditioning, volunteering and attending Urban Flair.  Youth were able to meet Mission staff and receive support during auditions held at YSM’s auditorium.  Many parents came to support the youth during their auditions, so they too were able to get acquainted with the Mission.  Social services in the city attended the event to connect with St. James Town youth and for youth to find the help they need.  Yonge Street Mission backed Urban Flair and the Council by providing funding and staff advisors, recruiting volunteers and helping with promotion.  The council and YSM staff advisor successfully applied and received a $7,500 grant from ScotiaBank, which made this event possible.  Mission staff came out to Urban Flair to encourage the youth and could be heard cheering them on during sets.

“I hope this event will give confidence to the people performing and encouragement to keep using their gifts.  I hope it will also bring a sense of positivity to the community,” said Jordan Heywood, staff with Yonge Street Mission’s Youth United in Visionary Action program.

Now that the event is over, Fionna and her committee members will follow up with sponsors and thank donors.  There will be an awards ceremony dinner for council youth and their parents on Saturday.  As this year’s council members are celebrated and thanked, recruitment is underway for new members who will grow in their gifts by helping their community.

“Together, we’re like a family,” Fionna said during her closing speech.

Celebrate Hope in the City

By Anne Keyes

Double Take Mural - Hope in the City

Double Take Mural – Hope in the City

We had a beautiful day for a party on August 20th to celebrate The Yonge Street Mission’s spectacular new mural, ‘Hope in the City.’ This dramatic image covers the entire east wall of our Double Take Store, and captures the diversity, energy and hope reflected in our Mission community. “The mural is our gift to the community, reflecting the hope and faith we have in the potential of everyone we work with,” says Paul Davidson, Mission Administrative Officer.

Paul worked with Double Take Store Manager Kathy Webster, to form a selection committee made up of stakeholders in the Regent Park neighbourhood.

Local artists with deep roots in the community, Jason Rouleau and Ryan Dineen of the Toronto Muralists, submitted the winning design. “This is exactly the message of ‘Hope’ that the Mission wants to convey,” says Kathy. “If a person who needed help walked by and saw it, they would think ‘Maybe this is a place that can help me.’”

Who doesn't love ice cream?

Who doesn’t love ice cream?

About 200 people came out to party in the sunshine, enjoy popcorn, ice cream from the Bow Tie ice cream truck and delicious homemade samosas and pakoras provided by women from our Building A Better Life program.

Dancing with Kaysun

Dancing with Kaysun

Guests enjoyed a live street dance performance by Fionna Gan, a community youth leader and member of the Mission’s St. James Town Youth Council, and also the music of Kaysun, a Toronto-based singer-songwriter, (“Find A Way” ranked #1 on CBC Radio ).

Pam McConnell, ward councillor for Toronto Centre-Rosedale, helped cut the ribbon and now Hope in the City is official! We hope everyone enjoys it as much as one of our neighbours: while he was painting the mural Justin Rouleau tells us, “A woman stopped by and mentioned to me that she lived in a building across the street and seeing the mural from her window every morning brightens her day.”

A P.E.I. Lobster Feast for the Mission’s Seniors!



A P.E.I. Lobster Feast for the Mission’s Seniors!

By: Anne Keyes

“This is such a treat,” said one senior, “I’m from down east originally, but I never get to have lobster any more. What a lovely gift from these young people!”

All of the seniors enjoyed the east coast hospitality and interacting with the young people. The group worked seamlessly to reheat the lobster, and make up a traditional Prince Edward Island church dinner of lobster rolls and potato salad. Delicious!

On Tuesday, August 6th we were honoured to have 21 youth and six adults from Murray River, Prince Edward Island visit, volunteer and provide fresh lobster for the Seniors’ lunch.

Murray River is a fishing community and the lobster was donated by the youth group’s parents – most of whom work in the lobster fishery. The parents pre-cooked and shelled the lobster, then froze and packed it. The group travelled for 26 hours by train, from Monkton, NB, and VIA Rail gave them freezer space for the journey.

The Memorial United Church youth are on a mission trip to Toronto. They finished their visit to Yonge Street Mission with a walking tour of our Regent Park neighbourhood, and took part in a community clean up while doing so. Our seniors hope they come back to visit us soon!