Gillian Irving and the Riverdale Basket Brigade usually reach out to the community for support before the holidays. The charity—organized three years ago by four local women, Linda Considine, Amy Halpenny and Anke Simpson—typically sees the team shoulder to shoulder with volunteers in the basement of a local church in December, assembling food baskets and hand delivering them to local families in need.
But this year, things looked different.
“While our mandate is providing food to people in need, we’ve all seen the effect COVID-19 has had on businesses in our community over the last few months, “explains Gillian. “As a group we decided to expand our reach to include supporting local businesses and our front-line workers.”
The Riverdale Basket Brigade put the word out—and received an overwhelming response.
“We were sensitive to the fact that many people are struggling right now, but they were still willing to help,” says Gillian.” We all recognize that front-line workers are putting themselves in harm’s way for us every day, and this provided an opportunity to support them as well as our struggling local businesses that we all love. It really was a win-win situation for everyone.”
Thanks to community support, the Riverdale Basket Brigade used a portion of funds raised to purchase gift cards to support local restaurants and delivered them to Michael Garron Hospital to be distributed to front-line workers. Each of the three participating restaurants – Il Fornello Danforth, 7Numbers and Eastside Social – also donated $15 for every $60 gift card purchased. The remainder of the funds raised by the community were used to buy single serve meals for those in need in the community.
“It’s never been more evident just how much our community deeply cares about one another,” says Diana Tustin, child life specialist. “The Riverdale Basket Brigade is not only about giving, but a way of living. The kindness and generosity our staff experienced has encouraged, energized and inspired us!”
On a personal level, giving back to MGH allows me to show my gratitude for the care our family received in a tangible way,” Gillian says. “and as a committee, finding a meaningful way to give back and support our local businesses while showing our support for front-line hospital workers gives us all a real feeling of joy. It’s been so rewarding to give other community members an opportunity to make a difference at a time when many of us feel helpless.”