On the first day of December 2019, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their Sussex Royal Instagram handle as has since become the norm, highlighted 12 charities in the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas. Among the different charity organizations was a Toronto based one, St. Felix Centre. The news must have come as a pleasant surprise to this particular organization which soon after responded with an Instagram post, expressing their gratitude while accompanied by a photo that included The Duchess in her acting days on Suits. Through this post, it emerged that Duchess Meghan had been a supporter and volunteer at the organization.
As we continue to celebrate the contribution of St. Felix Centre to their society, I caught up with them to get a deeper insight on what they do and of course, to find out how it was having the future Duchess of Sussex volunteer regularly at their kitchen.
Welcome to Meghanpedia, St. Felix Centre! It’s indeed such an honor to feature you guys. For our readers who may not know what your center is all about, could you kindly introduce yourselves to them and what you do?
Thank you for showing interest in learning more about St Felix Centre, the work we do and the support we have received from The Duchess of Sussex. St. Felix Centre is a non-profit organization located in downtown Toronto; We support people experiencing extreme poverty, homelessness, mental health challenges, hunger and precarious housing – and we also have a long tradition of being 100% pet friendly! The St Felix Centre provides compassionate service and a safe, welcoming and respectful environment inclusive of all religions, genders, cultures and abilities. People can always find more information about our work on our website.
So, now that the cat’s out the bag and we know that during her time on Suits, Meghan would regularly volunteer in your kitchen, we are curious to also know how it was like working with the future Duchess of Sussex?
The Duchess was always very humble during her volunteer opportunities with us. She kept a low profile all the time, and worked as hard as any other volunteer in our kitchen. No publicity, no cameras. She knew that it was about helping people and sharing with them kindness and compassion. That is why we only have one photo that includes her while volunteering in our Community Meals Program; she is simply standing there, next to all the other amazing volunteers.
Congratulations on being highlighted as one of the organizations doing good this month on The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Instagram account, Sussex Royal! How does it feel to know that the Duchess still has a special connection to your center and considers your cause worth highlighting?
It’s amazing! We definitely didn’t expect something like that. The St. Felix Centre is a very special place, and we are happy to know that it had an impact on the heart of the Duchess. All our volunteers leave a piece of them with us, and the Duchess left many smiles and positive energy at the Centre too. It is very moving to know that she also took a little of us with her.
How has the response been this month as a result of the same?
Oh, it has been amazing! After the announcement, many people have visited our social media platforms, and many of them have made small donations to support our work. The love we have received has been overwhelming.
“The St. Felix Centre is a very special place, and we are happy to know that it had an impact on the heart of the Duchess. All our volunteers leave a piece of them with us, and the Duchess left many smiles and positive energy at the Centre too. It is very moving to know that she also took a little of us with her.”
We know that charitable organizations are not entirely devoid of challenges. Have you had any and how have you managed to overcome them? What about your achievements? We would like to celebrate them as well.
Unfortunately, Toronto has seen an unprecedented rise in homelessness. More than ever there is a need for more supportive housing, casework services, and spaces where people experiencing homelessness can find a safe place to rest and receive compassionate support. Because of that, St Felix Centre has seen an enormous increase in the number of people coming through our doors, and we are in real need of more unrestricted funds to continue offering the programs they need to stay alive and improve their current situation. So, the main challenge we face is that we need a larger number of generous donors, especially monthly donors, to receive such much-needed funding.
Successes? So many! Although maybe we measure success in a different way than most people do. Of course, we have many excellent examples of people who came to the Centre facing a very complex situation and we helped them get permanent housing and make a strong positive turn in their lives. However, for us, every day that we have the opportunity to keep someone alive is a success; every day that we get closer to our guests to earn their trust is a success; every smile we bring to our guests when they receive a warm and nutritious meal is a success. Because all those opportunities give us one more day, and one more chance, to transform the lives of many valuable human beings.
Tell us about your “Lighting The Way” campaign. What is it about and how can one support that?
It is our holiday season campaign. The initiative began on November 1 and will run until December 31. You and your readers who wish to support the work we do and feel our cause close to their hearts can go to our website and, under the option “get involved”, make a donation or become monthly donors. The funds we receive during this time of the year will go to the Lighting the Way campaign; we will be adding lighted ornaments in our virtual Christmas tree until, with your support, we reach our goal. People can check the tree on our website. There is no donation too small! All gifts make a difference. Of course, people can also continue to support the Centre with their donations after the event.
And now, the toughest of all questions. The Duchess has been subject to a lot of vilification ever since her relationship with Prince Harry came to light. As people who have interacted with her before she joined the Royal Family and know her for who she is, what is your take on this and also message for her?
Well, as we said, she always showed a selfless interest in supporting people in need, and we really believe that is her character. It is sad when someone who is trying to make a difference receives such attacks. We are happy to see that she has now such an amazing platform as a member of the Royal Family to continue supporting and advocating for vulnerable members of so many communities around the world. We would like to tell her that we are very grateful for her support and send her our love. We hope she visits us when she comes to Toronto.
“However, for us, every day that we have the opportunity to keep someone alive is a success; every day that we get closer to our guests to earn their trust is a success; every smile we bring to our guests when they receive a warm and nutritious meal is a success. Because all those opportunities give us one more day, and one more chance, to transform the lives of many valuable human beings.”
What future plans have you say in the next 2,3 years?
We will continue advocating for supportive and affordable housing, helping women of our transitional home to regain independence, and we hope to start paving the path and giving the first steps to be more involved in offering permanent solutions for those who need housing. We truly thank all of you for your generosity, compassion and support!
A big thank you to St. Felix Centre for giving us this opportunity to feature you on Meghanpedia. We want to encourage our readers to donate to the Lighting The Way campaign on behalf of the Sussexes using the hashtag #sussexdonationxstfelix.