Grade 11 Trafalgar student McKenna’s (Mick) Penny Pack initiative was first featured by the School in March of 2018. Now, in its fifth year, the Penny Pack initiative continues to help those most vulnerable in our community. What started as a project-based learning challenge with Future Design School (FDS) in her Grade 7 year after attending a summer camp at Trafalgar has now turned into a passion for Mick.
“My passion is community!” Mick exclaims. “Whether it is within my circle of friends, family, school, town, clubs, teams or the Penny Pack itself, ensuring that I continue to listen, learn and support the needs within these communities is very important to me.”
The inspiration for the Penny Pack – a hygiene care package – originally came after Mick heard from several speakers at FDS who spoke on the issues facing youth in our communities. One of these issues was lack of access to hygiene care products. The first Penny Packs provided homeless youth with a toothbrush and toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo, wet wipes, deodorant, hat and socks, Band-Aids and lip balm purchased through generous donations.
Since 2018, though support and accessibility remain at its core, the Penny Packs have evolved to help even more people in our community. “Each year we look at the specific needs of the community,” Mick shares. “Over time these needs have changed and I’m dedicated to ensuring the Penny Pack meets these needs.” Throughout the years the Penny Pack has provided gender neutral supplies, targeted to helping women’s hygiene and specifically supported toddlers and children.
This past December, 25 large bins with over 3,000 hygiene care and comfort items were delivered to organizations to help those most vulnerable in our community. “This year we reached out directly to the Children’s Aid Society and Joanne’s House to determine what the need was.” Mick continues, “This year these organizations needed individual hygiene products that they could grab quickly and give to those in need.”
Mick has worked with various organizations to distribute the Penny Packs within the Durham Region including Durham Children’s Aid Society, Denise House, Grandview Kids, Frontenac Youth Services, Durham Outreach, Durham Mental Health, Cornerstone Durham, Seeds of Hope, Lakeridge Health, Durham Boys and Girls Club and more.
In order to increase support more items are needed and in order to purchase more items Mick requires additional funds. To meet the demand for support Mick runs several fundraising initiatives over the summer including a charity golf tournament and BBQ. “My favourite part about fundraising is getting people together with a common goal and interest.” Mick shares. She uses the golf tournament and BBQ as an opportunity to fundraise but also to highlight local businesses in Downtown Whitby and the Durham Region with a raffle table including their products. “It’s all about spreading awareness,” she says. “If I can let people know that these small businesses exist in our community and I can share with these businesses the work that I’m doing to help those most vulnerable then the impact is two-fold.”
Mick uses the summer months to fundraise so that the fall and winter can be dedicated to connecting with organizations and to plan for the purchase, assembly and distribution of the Penny Packs as well as individual products. To date fundraising efforts have surpassed $30,000 which has allowed for the assembly and distribution of over 5,000 exclusively designed packs for babies, toddlers, kids, teens and adults including 50,000 + comfort items.
If you’d like to learn more about the Penny Pack initiative and how you can help visit gofundme.com/penny-pack.