Emery volunteers giving during pandemic

By Sean Delaney

Brigette Contento is throwing caution to the wind and opening her home to the items people in need, well, need.

And she's doing it because she simply can't help it.

“I've been in the neighbourhood for 40 years, so I got a little bit of the, are you crazy giving your address out? But when it comes to times like these. I don’t care. So what?”

When there is a need in her neighbourhood, people call her. She's known for philanthropy and volunteer work, but also connected enough through her work with local schools and the Weston Food Bank that when that call does get made, action happens.

In the time of the coronavirus, and residents having concerns about even visiting food banks due to a fear of spreading the virus, a spot for food donations was needed in Emery Village.

And a teacher at St. Simon school got it all started, by calling Contento.

“She called, a social call, and asked how I was doing? How I was handling things because she knew I would be devastated over what was happening. I said I've been working at the food bank and doing what else I can to help, but I always want to do more. So she said, I want to use you as part of my curriculum, my online teaching.”

The teacher wanted to develop a program that would see students complete some form of task that led to donations for the food bank.

But she was having problems with people wanting to go out. So, Contento opened her home.

“I said perfect, no problem, let's have my home be a safe drop off.”

Her home had previously been a drop off centre for a recent home fire, and Contento had experience with the task.

The principal of St. Simon then asked her if she could open it up to the whole school.

“I said absolutely. And from there, I decided if I was going to open it up to the school, I'm going to open it up to the community.”

And what was originally going to be a one day food drive, Contento is now leaving open indefinitely, the need being so great.

“Food banks always need help,” she said.

Contento said they require hygiene products. They are doing “ok” food-wise, but low on personal hygiene products.

However, whatever can be donated will be welcome, and Contento encouraged people to think outside of the box. To think of things they wouldn't want to miss themselves.

“The last time I was at the food bank, a woman came to the back and asked for something, anything to celebrate a daughter's birthday. We were devastated; there was no cake mix, there wasn’t anything. I found a box of s'mores. I wanted so badly to drop off a cake to the family, but we’re not allowed.

“For me, it’s anything and everything you can think of," Contento said. “I would also like to thank my good friend and community activist, Michael Verrelli, for his ongoing assistance. Michael and I think very much alike when it comes to supporting those in the community that need help.”

Contento's address is 16 Yorkdale Cres, Toronto.

If you cannot drop off and require a pickup, you can call Contento at, 647-889-7411 or Michael Verrelli at, 416-464-9007 or email Michael at: mikeverrelli@royallepage.ca

You can also follow her on Instagram at: brigettecontento