Figrove Back to School Drive and Scholarship Program
by Sandrinette M. Maniania
Firgrove Back to School DriveOn Thursday August 30, 2012, the Firgrove Community gathered at 5 Needle Firway for the 6th Annual Back to School Drive, and 5th Annual Scholarship Program, to discuss important proposed ventures. Firstly, awarding Scholarships to nine youths from the community, those of whom either going to college, university, or trade school, and secondly to bid farewell to William (Bill) Nicholls - Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer of District Council 46, IUPAT (International Union of Painters and Allied Trades).

Firgrove Back to School DriveThe Back to School Drive and Scholarship Program for Firgrove Community was started by two marvelous women who envisioned the need and the imperativeness to get involved and do something positive for their Community. Lorraine Anderson and Maryan Hilowle had the courage to step forward by starting this scholarship program aiming to help the less financially fortunate children to achieve the most important asset for the future: Education. However, because of the magnitude of such an undertaking, not surprisingly, they both didn’t know where to begin at first. They began by trying to use their tiny resources to connect with individuals, agencies, politicians, and businesses to generate support for their initiative. Initially, they encountered numerous challenges, but their faith was neither weakened nor discouraged as they continued their search for funding from whatever source available and willing to donate to their Community.

Firgrove Back to School DriveFortunately, Lorraine had the opportunity of meeting Sharon Simpson from Labour Community Services during a community meeting and she took that opportunity to approach her with their idea of a Back to School Drive – a program where school supplies would be donated to members of the Firgrove Community. Sharon advised that Lorraine put the proposal into formal writing, so that she could be of better assistance, and present it to networks that she had establishments with. This was in summer of 2007, and by mid-August Sharon had received the good news and contacted Lorraine and Maryan to inform them that the Painters Allied Trade Union had pledged to offer a donation to support their initiative and would be the first do so. The ladies were later presented with a cheque of One Thousand Dollars ($1000) from Sharon.

Soon after, JVS Toronto and PEACH offered their support by donating one hundred dollars each. In addition, The Womens’ Group added a contribution of Five Hundred Dollars, and by the end up August, the Back to School Drive had grown to approximately Two Thousand Dollars.

Firgrove Back to School DriveI spoke with Lorraine shortly after the event to find out how she felt regarding the outcome of the Back to School Drive and Scholarship Program for this year, 2012. She responded that it was a good turn out as many members of the community were present, and her goal is to invite and encourage more residents to gather for the event as we would all benefit from each other as well as the Community. She mentioned that she wants residents to know and understand that if they care and believe in their community, they can offer their contribution to make it better and beneficial to everyone.

She added how she was very proud of the achievements of the youth in the community, and is hence pleased and motivated that they introduced the Scholarship Program. She believes that awarding scholarship programs demonstrates that if you work hard, focus and are determined anything is possible and everything will work out. She noted that this project will encourage all the youth in the community to remain focused.
When asked what she hopes to attain, Lorraine stated, “although there have been barriers along the way, I never feel discouraged,” it goes deeper than that for her; for her its about being able to give back to the community to make a positive difference. In the future she hopes to expand the project with others in the community, and would appreciate more partnerships with Unions to continue to offer scholarship programs.

As a past resident Lorraine has hope that “the sky is the limit” and that the youth can triumph over the struggles in their everyday lives and in trying to do what’s best. Lorraine’s message is that education is the most essential. Furthermore, she and Maryan want to emphasize to members of the Community that with hard work and determination, all things are possible.

Firgrove Back to School DriveI spoke with Barry Rieder, the Jane and Finch Community minister from the United Church of Canada, who is not only impressed at how far the Back to School Drive and Scholarship Program has come, but is most importantly pleased with the Firgrove Community. He recalls how Lorraine and Maryan’s persistence gave way to what he today considers helped strengthen the relationship with the residents, while adopting a community that has expanded. Barry says that when the two women presented their idea, he remembers being thrilled about how devoted they were, which only made him eager to offer any possible assistance. He contributed four hundred dollars and his support, by allowing them to use his office and phone line in order to proceed with their initiative.

Barry also recalls the Painters Union wanting to go the distance, and was at the time delighted at how certain individuals were prepared to lend their support. He is inspired on a daily basis to continue working hard and contributing his service work to the community. In a speech that he gave before Bill’s price was awarded, Barry spoke about community work and its importance; he stated “we are all for promoting community work, as my Grandmother once said many hands make quick work.” I asked him about the quote later and he explained that the Back to school drive and scholarship program for Firgrove can expand to other communities in Jane and Finch, and that is what they are counting on for the future.

Firgrove Back to School DriveThe Painters Union has been committed to offering their support to the Firgrove Community ever since Sharon presented them with Lorraine and Maryan’s proposal (donating five hundred dollars for the women’s group, scholarship programs, and one thousand back packs including back to school supplies). In particular, William (Bill) Nicholls, (the man of honour at this year’s Back to School Drive and Scholarship Program), who has dedicated six years of his life to supporting the Firgrove Back to School Drive and Scholarship Program.

I had the privilege of interviewing Bill Nicholls shortly after receiving his “everyday hero award.” I asked him what he considered being his greatest achievement to date, and he explained: “giving back to the community”, to volunteer for scholar education; education, which he feels is a way out for any and every one. He grew up in a similar community to that of Firgrove, and therefore understands the importance of individual contributions.

Firgrove Back to School DriveBill feels close to the Firgrove Community knowing that he was raised under the same circumstances, hence explaining his motivation to offer support. To receive his EVERYDAY HERO AWARD, Bill feels gratified and receives this award wholeheartedly. When asked how he felt about leaving, he became quite and said “I’m sad to be leaving the community service.”

Though William Nicholls embarks in a new and exciting journey, as special assistant to the General President in Hanover, Maryland, he will remain close to the Firgrove Community. This mostly means that he does not plan on leaving for good, but instead will maintain his relationship with the residents, and visit whenever possible. Farewell to Bill Nicholls, and congratulations to these years’ recipients of the scholarship program. In closing, reach further than the stars, “sky is the limit.”

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