Originally posted at insidetoronto.com by Erin Hatfield
It may seem like an odd pairing – a high-end nightclub and a food bank – but when patrons and staff at Muzik were asked to help the hungry, they responded in spades.
“It’s a very fancy place and the people who are there are fancy and sophisticated, but the interesting thing is, for all accounts, people have really connected with the request,” said Michael Thompson, Scarborough Centre councillor and the co-founder of Project Engagement, a not-for-profit organization that looks to alleviate short-term and long-term poverty in Toronto by providing food and other household necessities.
This was the first year Project Engagement partnered with Muzik, a massive club with an upscale clientele, located at Exhibition Place in Toronto’s west end.
“(Project Engagement) was born out of the violence and criminal activities we were experiencing in 2005, where a lot of young men, particularly African-Canadian young men, were being killed through gun violence,” Thompson said. “We were all running around tackling and addressing and asking questions about the problem, and I just felt there was a need to start looking at solutions as well.”
Often, at the heart of violence and criminal activity, Thompson said, are poverty and the lack of access to things like food.
“Just the lack of connections to individuals who actually could help to assist or fill that void that exists,” Thompson said.
Through his position as councillor and the connections he had with the community, organizations and local business, Thompson said he felt he could do more to bring about solutions, which led to the formation of Project Engagement.
“The genesis was to work with the corporate sector to raise resources we could then distribute to people in need,” he said.
Project Engagement started out in 2006 with Christmas hampers filled with food to cover about six weeks. That grew to include hundreds of volunteers who help pack the hampers and partnerships with other businesses and organizations.
“We realized there were more who were willing to help us beyond Christmas hampers,” Thompson said.
That’s where Muzik came in.
“They were doing an initiative to bring awareness through their clients of the fact there are other people who may not have as much means as they do,” Thompson said.
So Thompson explained Project Engagement and Muzik partnered in a food drive not only to raise food, but to also engage people. The food drive was launched in mid-December and the club offered free admission to all customers with a food donation before 11 p.m. each night.
“We have never really partnered with an organization like we are doing now,” Thompson said. “It has been extremely successful.”
Muzik’s clients and staff collected about seven tonnes of canned food on behalf of Project Engagement. The food will be distributed by the Daily Bread Food Bank.
The food drive was originally scheduled to end in conjunction with the Project Engagement Christmas Food Drive, but was extended until Jan. 15.
Muzik Night Club handed over the food to the Daily Bread Food Bank Wednesday, Jan. 19. President of Muzik, Zlatko Starkovski; Project Engagement co-founder Vince Gasparro; Thompson; and representatives from the Daily Bread Food Bank gathered at the club to transfer the donated food to trucks to be taken to the Daily Bread Food Bank.