Relatives of Chanie Wenjack standing by a railroad track near forest

PHOTOGRAPH BY Joel Clements

5 ways to celebrate community in November

Share cultural traditions, engage your mind and build a custom gift basket for a family in need

November is our warm-up month, isn’t it? When all of the holiday madness hasn’t quite hit yet, but the more organized among us have already started shopping, baking and scheduling in our yearly effort to take some of the stress out of the season.

However, along with the holiday rush comes that other, happier feeling—the cheerful, giving feeling. There’s something about this time of year that kickstarts the urge not only to indulge in hot chocolate, but to help others, whether it’s donating to a food bank or supporting gift boxes for those in need. Feel like you want to do even more this year? Now’s the time. Here are five events to get you out and about and sharing in your community.

young child in red shirt wearing jewelry and holding Diwali flame

Annual Diwali Milan

When: November 2, 6:30 to 10 p.m.
Where: Chandni Banquet Hall, 125 Chrysler Drive, Brampton
Cost: Free.

The Hindu Heritage Centre hosts this dinner event to celebrate Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, which is India’s biggest holiday. All are welcome at this fun-filled family event that promises an evening of cultural traditions, music and, of course, lots and lots of incredible food. Come get your fill of samosas, chirote and barfi and share in the celebration. Tickets are free, but registration ahead of time is suggested.

Many festive baskets packed and wrapped sitting on a table

Basketeers Supporting Women Leaving Durham Shelters

When: November 3, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Greenbank Centennial Hall, 19965 Hwy. 7 and 12, Scugog
Cost: Free.

This is the fifth year the Durham Basketeers will gather to collect laundry baskets brimming with things that will help women who are transitioning from shelters to their new homes. November 3 is the day when items can be dropped off in Durham (the GTA date is November 17 and in York region it’s November 24)–so be sure to register (and shop) beforehand. Get some friends or family together and choose a theme for your basket (you can’t go wrong with “kitchen essentials” or “beauty and bath” themes) or mix it up with things that will come in handy for someone starting from scratch. On your drop-off day, stop in for a coffee and a chance to see some of the other beautifully wrapped baskets on display.

Social Capital Study Report Launch

When: November 6, 9-11 a.m. (doors open at 8:30 a.m. and seating is first come, first served)
Where: Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles Street West, Toronto
Cost: Free. (Registration required.)

How well do you know your neighbour? That’s the question being asked at the launch of this fascinating new study—funded in part by United Way Greater Toronto—that looks at the vibrancy of social networks and civic engagement in the GTA. The study also explores how much we rely on each other as a community. The report—part of Toronto’s Vital Signs program, which is a check-up on the community, of sorts—includes results presented by the Toronto Foundation and Environics Institute. Why not bring a neighbour and discuss your take on the findings while enjoying a few refreshments following the presentation?

Memorial stone for victims of Canadian Residential Schools with plaque reading In Honour of All The Children

The Weight of Your Heart: A Walk with Chanie Wenjack

When: November 21, 7-8:30 p.m.
Where: Richmond Hill Public Library, 1 Atkinson Street, Richmond Hill
Cost: Free

Two years ago, the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie helped raise Canada-wide awareness about Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy who died on railroad tracks in 1966 while trying to escape his residential school. Downie inspired the Walk for Wenjack, a journey that retraced Wenjack’s final tragic steps. Join photographer Joel Clements, who was there to document the walk, for the screening and discussion of his important, moving documentary The Weight of Your Heart: A Walk with Chanie Wenjack.

Santa Comes to Bay Street—15th Annual Gift Giving Event

When: November 25-26 (times vary)
Where: Design Exchange, 234 Bay Street
Cost: Free

Now in its 15th year, Santa Comes to Bay Street collects gift bags and donations that are distributed to 15 shelters across the city, ultimately helping 1,700 women and children in need. Join in the holiday fun by donning your most festive (read: hideous) sweater from a Christmas past and coming out to help organize and pack up donations and gifts into Santa’s sleigh. Check the website for open registration times, or even just make a donation or customize a gift bag for a specific family in need.

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