The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 46 has worked with the Firgrove Tenant Association and the Jane-Finch Community Ministry in Toronto, Ontario for the last six years, presenting over $30,000 in scholarships and giving thousands of backpacks filled with specific school supplies for each grade to students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12.
Students in the west end Toronto community of Firgrove are heading back to school in style thanks to a scholarship program and backpack giveaway sponsored by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 46.
“This is a community that needs help. This is our sixth year doing it and this has been a fantastic and rewarding opportunity for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 46,” said Bill Nicholls, IUPAT District Council 46 business manager/secretary-treasurer.
IUPAT has worked with the Firgrove Tenant Association and the Jane-Finch Community Ministry for the last six years, presenting over $30,000 in scholarships and giving thousands of backpacks filled with specific school supplies for each grade to students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12. IUPAT also supports the Firgrove Women’s Group.
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“It’s really good because some families can’t really afford it,” explained scholarship recipient Phebean Komeh of the Figrove Community Back Pack Giveaway. “It actually helps them so the kids go back to school well prepared and equipped for the school year, so it’s pretty life changing for most people.”
The 1,000 backpacks donated this year more than fill the need in the Firgrove community, and backpacks are also donated to other communities and organizations.
IUPAT started off giving out three scholarships and this year, eight $1,000 scholarships were given to community members pursuing post-secondary education. Other scholarship recipients were Ahmed Osman, Hebat Helal, Hangar Said, Ifrah Ibrahim, Nana Agyem, Raymond Agyem and Shannon Holness.
Scholarship recipients are studying in areas such as medicine, human rights and business administration.
“A lot of these people that we’re giving out scholarships to are coming back into the community to do more volunteer work,” explained Nicholls.
Toronto Argonaut middle linebacker Tristan Black was at the community celebration and told the youth that he is just like them, as he lived in community housing for a long time and is from the west end of Toronto.
His message to the Firgrove youth was that everyone has greatness in them.
Involvement from organizations like IUPAT helps inspire kids, said Black.
“It’s really important because kids need not only the people in their community, but people from other places to let them know that their arms can stretch a lot farther than they think they can.”
This will be Nicholls’ last year directly involved with the Back to School Drive and Scholarship Program as he has been promoted to Special Assistant to the General President in Hanover, Md. He said the program will still continue and that he will be back from time to time to visit the community. The Firgrove community recognized him for his contributions with a special presentation.
“This is something that is very close to my heart,” said Nicholls.