Donors unite to help local family feel the warmth of the season
By Mike Pearson, News staff
Sitting atop Santa’s lap at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Elementary School, five-year-old Anthony had some rather unusual Christmas requests.
His wishes included a new pair of glasses for his mother and tools to fix his father’s vehicle. For himself, he asked only for a lollipop.
After months of living in an RV at Fifty Point Conservation Area, Anthony and his family faced possible homelessness unless they found suitable accommodations by Nov. 30. Anthony’s mother, Christine Schwarz, is the family’s sole income provider. She works for a cleaning company. Anthony’s father, Uwe, is a Microsoft certified systems engineer.
He’s been unable to work since suffering a heart attack in 2007.
With limited financial resources, Anthony’s family faced an uphill task to find a home. They needed money for rent, moving expenses, and storage fees.
Inspired by Anthony’s unselfish wishes, school staff and volunteers sprung into action.
Their response has ensured Anthony and his family will have a warm roof over their heads during the holidays, and throughout the coming months.
Ramona Lipson, a parent and volunteer at Immaculate Heart’s Christmas store, was one of the first to lend a helping hand to Anthony and his family.
A registered nurse at Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga, Lipson circulated a bulletin to her co-workers and collected donations of gently used household items, such as blankets and money to help the family cover the cost of rent.
The chief of cardiology at the hospital offered a cheque to help cover rent payments.
“So many people have been involved. Word spread and it’s just become a massive effort,” said Lipson. “It’s a warming story, just how much people have been giving.”
Shelley Baker-Gracie and Paul Martelli are also volunteers at the Immaculate Heart Christmas store. Both are employed by Royal LePage State Realty in Stoney Creek.
“What probably touched my heart the most was what (Anthony) asked for, for Christmas,” said Baker-Gracie.
Mobilized by Baker-Gracie, a group of local realtors raised over $1,200 towards rent and storage fees and helped to provide a moving truck. The volunteer group also collected donations of gently used furniture and household items.
The Martin Mazza team at Royal LePage came through with rent money and household donations. Sales representative Emily DeNardis provided one of the largest contributions at $500.
On Dec. 11, volunteers spent about six hours moving household furnishings into the family’s new home. Among the donations were two beds for Anthony, with a stylish set of sheets from the Disney Pixar movie Cars.
A Christmas tree was set up in one corner of the home’s living room.
Schwarz has been overwhelmed by the support she’s received from dozens of people she didn’t even know just a few weeks ago.
After living in a house without heat, the family moved into an RV at Fifty Point. But RVs are not permitted after Nov. 30.
Without money for first and last month’s rent, moving expenses and storage fees, the family’s outlook appeared bleak.
“It was only me working and my income isn’t enough,” said Schwarz. “We didn’t have much luck finding a place and we were very worried about things.”
Schwarz wishes to thank Don McConnell, manager of fleet and construction for the Hamilton Conservation Authority, and Mike Laskowski, prinicipal at Immaculate Heart of Mary, who helped the family find their home.
From there, the list of supporters appears almost endless.
Led by realtor and Burlington Rotarian Sean Morrison, all of the necessary furniture and appliances were provided.
Other supporters include Dominion Lending Centres, Dignity Memorial and U Haul at Barton and Nash streets. The franchise owner provided a second moving vehicle, free of charge to the family, and also chipped in a $100 donation.
A local dentist is providing no charge dental check-ups and cleanings.
In addition to rental expenses, household items and furniture, donors have provided food items, gifts for Anthony, a Christmas turkey and even a supply of cat food.
“(I feel) overwhelmed,” said Uwe, who is originally from Germany. “The response has been amazing.”
A self described night person, Uwe is hoping to return to work. After living in a more urban area of Hamiton Mountain, Uwe said the family is enjoying the rural surroundings.
“I’ve never felt so much at home as I do now,” he said.
The family’s three bedroom house on Baseline Road is approximately 1,600 square feet and backs onto Fifty Point Conservation Area.