The Children’s Aid Foundation’s (CAF) For the Love of Youth (FLY) initiative helps youth transitioning out of the child welfare system into their first independent home by providing gently-used furnishings secured through donations from corporate housing industry members.
The initiative’s beginnings date back to the summer of 2002, when Doriana Zohil-Morton and David Morton, co-founders of MAC Furnished Residences made their first donation of lightly used furniture and household items from their business inventory.
With over 75 furnished executive corporate suites in the MAC Furnished Residences portfolio — all needing to be fully refurnished and redecorated every four to five years, the Mortons recognized they had an opportunity to impact many lives.
Doriana called several charitable organizations looking for a suitable partner before connecting with the enthusiastic and appreciative team at Children’s Aid Foundation who seized the chance to provide additional support and resources to young people transitioning out of care.
In the early days, CAF sent a volunteer by to pick up the furniture that was then housed in a retail storefront funded by the charity. Although it provided youth with an authentic shopping experience, neither the Foundation nor the youth typically had access to a vehicle, making delivery a challenge each time.
As they outgrew this arrangement, Doriana began renting trucks and driving them herself, and David would do all of the heavy lifting, getting furniture loaded onto trucks. Their passion and dedication inspired friends and colleagues like Lilie Venditti and her husband Claudio Venditti of Penske Trucks to come on board with transportation resources; and Derek Duffy of Armstrong Movers to provide drivers.
Already fully motivated by the idea that their work could help so many vulnerable lives, Doriana and David did not actually have the chance to put a face and name to any of the recipients of the furniture until 2007. This is when five impressive young people came to the MAC Furnished Residences warehouse to select the items for each of their respective first apartments. When the warehouse door slid open and they saw the look on their faces, the true impact of the initiative was clear.
The initiative as we now know it, finally took flight in 2007, and over the next eight years, the staff at MAC Furnished Suites along with friends and partners continued to assist youth across the Greater Toronto Area. They were able to provide most of the furniture for more than 50 homes, and called on friends like Laura Dottori-Attanasio from CIBC, to fill in a few gaps to fully furnish each home.
In 2015, with a vision for further expansion, the initiative was officially named For the Love of Youth (FLY) — a name chosen by Doriana’s colleague Leah Sangster-Rydzik. That same year, Elle Crane of MasterKey Alliance gave Doriana a platform to present FLY to members of the Corporate Housing Providers Association at one of their regional meetings. As a result, both Corporate Housing Interiors Limited (CHIL) and Toronto Furnished Apartments came on board as sponsors providing much needed funds and resources for the initiative.
CHIL’s Andrew Emmans called on his clients Premiere Suites and Minto Suites to donate their lightly used furnishing, and began storing it in their warehouse and completing apartment set ups twice a year. Toronto Furnished Apartments’ Haimchand Katwaroo utilized his company’s furniture and logistical resources to complete a move from A to Z.
Today, FLY works with CHPA members in several provinces to furnish homes for youth identified through CAF. We think this is just the tip of the iceberg, and hope to expand to every province across Canada with the help of the corporate housing industry.
We still face many challenges and require additional partners and support to make our goal a reality. In addition to gently-used furnishing, if your company can provide logistical services like warehousing, transportation, or installation, please contact us to find out how we can work together.
We are also now accepting donations of services and/or cash directly through the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada where funds can be earmarked to go towards the FLY campaign.
Every child deserves a chance. Join us in helping some of our country’s most vulnerable youth to break down some of the barriers to success.