Chabad-Lubavitch of Ontario Receives Major Government Grant


by S. Olidort - ONTARIO, CANADA

November 20, 2002

Chabad-Lubavitch of Ontario was the proud recipient of a major government grant by the Trillium Foundation, last Thursday, November 14th, to help launch the Friendship Circle program in Toronto. The Friendship Circle, initially founded by Chabad of Michigan, caters to children with special needs through a unique chain of goodness that involves teenage volunteer mentors forging close friendships with these children, encouraging inner growth and feelings of self-worth in both parties.

It is a costly program, notes Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, Chabad representative to Ontario, one that “would not be possible without the generous seed money we received from the Trillium Foundation of Ontario.” The Trillium Foundation is a government organization responsible for distributing surplus lottery money in the form of grants to qualified applicants. Presented to Rabbi and Mrs. Grossbaum and Chaya Perman, by Tina Molinari, a member of the Provinicial Parliament, the five year gift will provide $310,000 in funding for Friendship Circle programming and activities.

The grant expresses the Foundation’s recognition of this project as one that will not only serve those involved, but one that will serve as a model for other areas of concern across the province. The launching of the project here couldn’t have come at a better time. With Chanukah just around the corner, this Festival of Lights will illuminate the lives of the entire Jewish community here as a program that has brightened the homes and hearts of hundreds of special needs children and their teenage volunteers across the U.S. comes to Toronto. The first in a series of holiday programs scheduled for this year, the Chanukah celebration will bring together seventy-five high school and college student volunteers from across the Jewish spectrum and some thirty special needs children and their families for an afternoon of Chanukah crafts, fun, and entertainment. “Plans for the Friendship Circle have been in the making since May,” says Mrs. Esther Grossbaum who, together with Mrs. Chaya Perman, directs Toronto’s Friendship Circle. But the program demands meticulous planning and involves many delicate issues, from pairing up volunteers and their charges, to administering proper training for volunteers and creating a loving, relaxed environment for the special needs children. And next week, after attending several training sessions, volunteers will be making home visits to scores of children to become acquainted and build an easy, warm rapport that will set the tone for months and possibly years of mutual friendship and growth. The Friendship Circle, says Rabbi Grossbaum, “provides an excellent opportunity to reach teens of all backgrounds by involving them with special needs children. As the teens interact with these children and see them deal in a constructive, positive way with challenges that often appear overwhelming, the teens learn to appreciate their own good fortune.” Being of help to these children, says Rabbi Grossbaum “builds up a healthy sense self-esteem and maturity in the volunteers.”

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