When Angie had her first child, Brooklyn, the importance of service came into focus. Looking ahead, she envisioned giving back as a family creating meaningful change in her community and positively impacting her daughter’s future. Six years later, her daughter is leading a family initiative to support homeless people in their Toronto neighbourhood. This is the story of Brooklyns Blankets, as told by Angie.
We’re city dwellers, so we’re always downtown. Since [Brooklyn] was two, she’d walk by somebody who was sleeping on the street and say, “Mommy, where’s their blanket?” Explaining the issue of homelessness to a two-year-old is complex; [my response] was more, “How does that make you feel?”
We called [our initiative] Brooklyns Blankets because it all started with blankets. [Keeping] people warm [is] the main thing because of the urgency behind it. [We’re] trying to give Brooklyn the sense that it’s not just adults, there are actually a lot of kids on the street.
I put together a resource guide to show [parents] how to speak to their kids about the issue, how you goal track, how you create an action plan—no pressure, just a guideline. I wasn’t sure how well it would be received, but people are really appreciative.
I think there’s always been this sense of [wanting] everything [I do] to have a greater purpose. I’m not an activist; I have always just wanted to be educated on what’s going on in the world. I knew when Brooklyn was an infant, we were going to do cool things as a family. The impression I can make [are in] those teachable moments… [in] me wanting to create a world my kids are going to inherit.
Because it’s a part of my life to coordinate, organize and run events, if I’m not running [Brooklyns Blankets], I’m going to be running a dinner party. Any opportunities to celebrate, that’s the best way to do it—that’s how [kids] can get involved. It makes it more tangible and exciting.
For people that are [addressing] challenges in this world—homelessness being one of them—be knowledgeable. [Ask:] What are the triggers and causes? And, how you can be part of the solution. Brooklyn would go up and have conversations. She’d say, “Hi, I’m Brooklyn” and have conversations without fear.
I want her to have a worldview so much bigger than mine was. There was no easy way, no [resources] within my community that I was able to tap into; I didn’t have all these opportunities to exercise what was clearly innate inside me. I wasn’t surrounded by activism, but I still had the inclination to give.
Next year, we’ll probably move onto food. The thing is, I want her to want to do it. It needs to be driven by her. because if it’s driven by me or [my husband] Donavan, the kids are just going to follow along. My advice to any parent is to follow your kids’ lead.