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Holiday initiatives focus on community outreach


by Stephanie Kang

Students at U of T Scarborough have organized two holiday initiatives aimed at highlighting the need to think of others at this time of year.

The first is aimed at giving a gift or donation to someone less fortunate, while the second is designed to raise awareness of alcohol safety in a season filled with parties. The respective projects are being carried out by students in cooperation with Bluff’s Restaurant and the Health & Wellness Centre.

Fundraiser for women’s shelter

Bluff’s Restaurant is run and operated by students through the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU). Staff and students at Bluff’s have organized two initiatives to raise funds for Denise House, an Oshawa shelter for abused women and children.

The first initiative at Bluff's is a coupon book sale. Coupon books valued at $600 are selling for $40, and include such deals as two-for-one lift and rental coupons for Dagmar ski resort. Net proceeds from the sale of the books will go straight to Denise House. They will be sold until December 20.

Secondly, a $5 holiday lunch will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 18 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for anyone who brings a donation. Anything and everything from canned foods to baby formula to clothes will be accepted. The meal will be the traditional holiday turkey dinner and dessert, which will probably be Christmas cake or plum pudding.

Drama and English student Chris Hobman says that following the previous success of the $5 Thanksgiving meal, officials at Bluff’s decided to organize another fundraising luncheon.

Denise House is the only women’s shelter in Oshawa, so organizers say the challenges are many and the need for help is large. Zalia Conde, food and beverage manager at Bluff’s, said the shelter provides crucial services and all donations are gratefully accepted. “They are really personable there, and they’re great with the women and kids,” said Conde. “It’s a great volunteer organization, and everyone has been really supportive since we started donating to them.”

Hobman, who is also assistant manager and bartender at Bluff’s, says he enjoys helping out because “Whatever pride I get from fundraising is insignificant compared to the joy it brings to the people who are benefiting from it.” He noted that at the previous fundraiser lunch, “We had a full house -- not to mention several overflowing bins of clothing and non-perishable food items, the aroma of turkey and pumpkin pie circulating through the restaurant, and a pretty good spirit all around.”

As with the past fundraising luncheons, organizers say that all leftover food will also be donated to the shelter, along with the entirety of the servers’ tip pool.

For more information on the Denise House Women’s Shelter, visit:

Alcohol awareness campaign

Another holiday initiative at U of T Scarborough is Party in the Right Spirit, an alcohol awareness and harm minimization program. It is being operated through the Health & Wellness Centre and U of T Scarborough students, in collaboration with Toronto Public Health.

There are three components to the program: alcohol liability; alcohol impairment; and risk-taking activities and communication strategies and violence prevention – aimed at protecting young people from sexual assault, abuse, and other unsound judgment actions.

Party in the Right Spirit markets its seminars to upper year students who are executives of student associations hosting formals and other events where alcohol will be served. The program was designed to ensure responsible drinking, said Elsa Kiosses, health promotion nurse at the Health & Wellness Centre.

People need to be aware that alcohol is a drug and that it affects judgment, according to the peer educators who help share the message. The program does not tell students that they must avoid drinking altogether, but rather it provides the background information for people to know when they have reached their limit.

The students said they organized two very successful liability seminars for club executives, and are hoping to do another one in late February or early March in preparation for the formals coming up. They also have a few collaborative projects with faculty in progress, but the details are not finalized. A campaign on energy drinks awareness is also being considered.

Fourth year science student Azka Bilal is the campus program coordinator of Party in the Right Spirit. "I lived in residence for a semester and there were some instances when some of my friends engaged in irresponsible drinking and got into trouble,” Bilal says. “That’s when I decided that I should do something to educate students about responsible partying. Fortunately, Party in the Right Spirit was hiring peer educators around that time, so I was pleased to join the team.”

“This program is important because students are entering adulthood and finding their identity,” Kiosses said. “They’re now in the position where they have to make their own — hopefully responsible — decisions that will impact their overall health in the long run.”

For more information on the program or to volunteer, visit:

Stephanie Kang is a third-year English student at U of T Scarborough. She is currently working as a co-op student in Marketing & Communications.

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