Windfall

Windfall, an award-winning registered charity, provides NEW, donated clothing and other basic-needs items to 64,000 people in the Greater Toronto Area who are struggling with poverty. More than 21,000 of them are children

Our Impact Why We Exist

 Items are distributed through 100 social service agencies, such as shelters for abused women and children, centres for newcomers to Canada and job-training programs. NEW basic necessities promote dignity and help increase life-improving opportunities. For every $1 spent to operate, Windfall puts $56 worth of NEW basic-needs items into the hands of those who need them most!

Windfall also provides meaningful job-training placements and workshops for hundreds of people each year!

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Windfall was established in 1992 when two community activists, Joan Clayton and Ina Andre, realized that clients living in homeless shelters lacked proper clothing. They approached stores and asked them to donate their new, unsold items to the clients living in the shelters.

The soundness of their idea has been proven by Windfall’s success. The growth in donations has always been matched by a continued growth in the needs of social service agencies. In 2006, a strategic review based on research and community consultations resulted in a program expansion to include personal care items, school backpacks and small household goods.

Thanks to its volunteers and the partnerships formed with businesses and other social service agencies, Windfall can operate on a tight budget. These vital relationships enable us to put $56 into the social service system for every $1 spent; while keeping 200 tons of perfectly usable new items out of landfill sites!

Accolades and Accomplishments

Windfall processed more than 400,000 clothing items and one million other items in the last fiscal year with a retail value of over $28 million! The growth in donations has always been matched by a continued growth in the needs of social service agencies. 

Windfall has been honoured with many awards. In 1996, we were awarded The New Spirit of Community Award (The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy chose Windfall that year as one of the five best business/charity partnerships in Canada). Subsequent awards include: Vital People Award (Toronto Community Foundation), Vital Ideas Award (Toronto Community Foundation), Lifetime Volunteer Award - Joan Clayton (FLARE magazine), Harlequin More Than Words Award (Harlequin Enterprises), most cost-effective social service agency in Canada (MoneySense Magazine Summer 2010) and our new social purpose enterprise, Windfall Brides, was the 2010 Toronto Enterprise Fund Business Plan Competition Winner. In the fall of 2010, Windfall set the Guinness World Record for the largest group of people in one location dressed as brides. During Spring/Summer 2013, Windfall Brides was awarded the Platinum Award by the Etobicoke Guardian for Best Bridal Boutique in Etobicoke.

In Summer 2013, Windfall was rated as the number one most cost-effective social service agency in Canada by MoneySense Magazine (Summer 2013 issue).

Our Programs How We Do It

Through its three main programs, Windfall Basics, Employment Basics and Kids’ Basics, Windfall helps more than 64,000 Torontonians in need gain a sense of dignity and hope as they work to overcome stressful and traumatic circumstances. Addressing the root causes of poverty with the aim of promoting long-term solutions, Windfall partners with 107 community-based social service agencies to ensure that donated items are reaching high-needs clients who are enrolled in programs leading to their independence.

Windfall Basics helps adult clients who are working towards re-gaining their self-sufficiency. Items distributed through this program include basic clothing such as underwear, socks, t-shirts, pants and sleepwear; work basics such as job-related clothing, suits and general labour items; winter basics such as, winter coats, boots and hats; personal basics such as deodorant, shampoo, soap, razors, toothbrushes and toothpaste; and home basics such as housewares, pots, pans, blankets and pillows.

Research conducted by Ontario Works in 2003 indicated that the second major reason people on government assistance cannot get or keep a job is their lack of appropriate clothing and personal care items (the top reason is the lack of available jobs in general). Through the Employment Basics program, Windfall assists adult clients as they re-enter the workforce.  Assistance includes providing clients with work wear, long-term, on-site employment placements and training, and a new full-day workshop, Suitable Impressions, that teaches participants the basics of making that critical positive first impression.

Through the Kids’ Basics program, Windfall helps high-needs children in the GTA. Children represent an astounding 1/3 of clients served. Wearing new, appropriate clothing, being able to participate in outdoor activities during the cold winter months, and having a school backpack full of supplies, play a critical role in children’s physical, emotional, intellectual and social development.

 

Windfall Basics

Many of Windfall’s clients are women and children escaping abuse. When they enter a shelter, it’s usually with just the clothes on their back. Having run away for their safety, they leave everything behind, and once they are ready to leave the shelter, most go to subsidized housing. They live in poverty eating out of tin cans because they have no kitchen supplies, and sleeping on floors because they have no bedding. Other clients in similar situations include people who are coming out of other residential programs such as: psychiatric care facilities, youth shelters, homeless shelters, half-way houses, aboriginal services and centres for recent immigrants and refugees. No matter what issues clients are dealing with, the common thread they share is living in extreme poverty. 

Windfall provides basics that are comforting to those going through trauma:

  • Clothing Basics such as underwear, socks, t-shirts, sweats, tops, pants, sleepwear
  • Work Basics such as suits and general labour items, e.g. work boots, outdoor work wear
  • Winter Basics such as winter coats, boots, hats, mittens, warm clothing
  • Personal Basics such as shampoo, soap, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant
  • Home Basics such as housewares, pots, pans, dishes, utensils, blankets, pillows

Funding and Program Partners

Windfall’s flagship program would not be possible without the financial support of many generous foundations and corporations including: Ontario Trillium Foundation, Rotary Club of Toronto Charitable Foundation, CM Meighen Foundation, Cadillac Fairview, Tippet Foundation, GH Wood Foundation, Zukerman Family Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, TD Bank Financial Group, BMO Financial Group and Alterna Savings. Large product donors include: Winners, H&M, Johnson & Johnson, Ash City and Bargains Group.

Program Impact

Windfall serves more than 64,000 high-needs clients in the Greater Toronto Area. Clients receiving items are facing severe hardships such as abuse, addictions, poverty, immigration/refugee issues, unemployment, mental illness, and homelessness. Windfall Basics provides clients with the basic-needs items they require to move their lives forward. Over 350,000 items are distributed through this program. For the clients, the benefits of receiving the items include: reduced financial stress, success at interviews/jobs, full participation and success at school, increased sense of dignity, pride and hope, and a sense of belonging.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"The number of working poor in the Toronto Region increased by 42% between 2000 and 2005, with the highest proportion (70,700 people) in the city of Toronto...Almost 3 out of 4 of them (73% in 2005) are immigrants."

"About 1 in 10 people in Toronto's workforce were unemployed in July 2012 – a rate one-third higher than the whole country's (7.3%)."

"Food bank users on social assistance pay, on average, 73% of income on housing and utilities, leaving about $5.67 per person per day to spend on food, clothing and all other expenses."

Participant Vignette

"Thank you, Windfall! Without your incredible service, I do not believe I would have the new confidence to turn my dreams into reality. In the last few years of my life I lost a job, experienced health difficulties, moved many times due to financial stress, and went through the pain of a divorce.

Last September, I became enrolled at the Business Employability Skills Training (BEST) program offered at Dixon Hall. We were taught many valuable skills, and I became involved with a supportive and nurturing group of women.

While there, we were offered professional business clothing from Windfall. Several times a month, our class would choose from a variety of clothing to ensure that we were ready when the opportunities arose. We helped each other select clothing that worked for our individual styles; it was like going shopping with girlfriends, and became something we looked forward to.

As a graduate of that program, and a recipient of Windfall’s clothes, I have discovered a new confidence and spirituality, and have moved into a new career. This would not have been possible without your kindness. Windfall helped me to stand tall, and present myself confidently, professionally, and with dignity at a time when I needed this most.

To the warm-hearted generosity of both the donors and the team of Windfall, I offer my sincere gratitude! Your essential service and support truly changed my life!"

- Linda Marlene Eales

Employment Basics

There are four main components to Windfall’s Employment Basics Program:

  • Work Basics researches donors, secures donations and distributes new job-related clothing e.g. suits, skirts, pants, shirts, ties. The items are distributed to clients enrolled in employment programs through partnerships with more than 14 job-training agencies in the Greater Toronto Area.
  • The Community Living Toronto Partnership was established in 1996. Teams of developmentally-challenged adults, unable to obtain stable employment, are placed in our work environment with the support of a worker. The teams count, sort, and organize the donations as well as cut off the labels.
  • The Ontario Works Partnership places four disadvantaged clients for a full year, full-time tenure. Windfall also accepts shorter placement participants from partner agencies such as Gateway Café and non-partner agencies such as March of Dimes.
  • Suitable Impressions Workshop takes job readiness to the final level by offering clothing, personal care items and first impression training for job seekers. Clients participate in a full-day, hands-on experience that enhances their self-esteem and dignity. The workshop gives them the tools and tips they need to make that critical positive first impression.

Funding and Program Partners

Business and business casual clothing is a major requirement of the Employment Basics program. Generous on-going clothing supporters include: Haggar Canada, Moore’s, Tabi, H&M and Franco Mirabelli. The Harry E. Foster Foundation, the Sprott Foundation, Mackenzie Financial, Bayview Village Shopping Centre and the Statestreet Foundation are financial donors of this critical program.

Program Impact

Employment Basics program directly benefits participants as follows:

  • increase in practical work skills
  • increase in team skills
  • enhancement of decision-making skills
  • feeling of acceptance, belonging and camaraderie
  • sense of community and participation in the work force
  • sense of accomplishment and participation in the social service sector
  • opportunities to try new skills in a safe and supportive environment
  • mutual support and support from team supervisors and staff at Windfall
  • access to NEW work-related clothing and other basic-needs items 
  • valuable Canadian work experience
  • full employment readiness

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"About 1 in 10 people in Toronto's workforce were unemployed in July 2012 – a rate one-third higher than the whole country's (7.3%)."

"The average unemployment rate for 15-24 year-olds remained 51% higher than in 2001."

"Toronto has 40% more knowledge work (jobs requiring high levels of skill and education) than the rest of Ontario."

Participant Vignette

"Three full-time warehouse assistants and two weekly teams come to Windfall’s warehouse to help unload, sort, organize and cut out labels from the donated items. This type of work training placement is very important for our clients as it allows them to learn life skills and work skills while actually in the community. This placement offers our clients a wonderful way to learn while feeling included in all aspects of society."

-  Sharon B., Support Worker, Community Living Toronto

"I can’t believe how much I’ve learned at Windfall! The staff has helped me to improve my computer skills such as email, internet research, website updating and selling the wedding dresses on the internet. The main responsibilities of my position here are around the wedding dress boutique and I have really improved my skills with working with the brides and the public. I have learned how to make sure they are satisfied with the services we offer and I am now called the “superstar saleswoman.” I am so excited to be learning all about how to run a non-profit business and how a charity runs. My telephone skills and general people skills are improving each week. My son’s school red-tagged me and asked me to plan the whole fundraising event for the 10 year anniversary of the school. The skills I have learned at Windfall in the areas of fundraising and organizing events have really helped make the school’s fundraiser better."

- Patty R. Fundraising Assistant Placement, Ontario Works

Kids' Basics

This program collects and distributes new clothing and other items to social service agencies and programs working with Toronto’s neediest children. Its components are:

  • Clothing Basics provide underwear, socks, t-shirts, jeans, tops, pants, sleepwear, sweaters
  • Winter Basics provide snowsuits, jackets, boots, hats, mittens, clothing
  • School Basics provide backpacks full of supplies, e.g. pencils, binders, calculators, dictionaries, tissues, hand sanitizers
  • Comfort Basics: Jo’s Snowflake Program provides backpacks full of comforting items, e.g. pajamas, slippers, toothbrushes, toys, books for kids entering shelters

There are many problem factors specific to the need for these items:

  • children are harder on clothing, get it dirtier so it requires more frequent washing thus wearing it out quicker
  • children are extremely sensitive to how others see them - kids often make fun of other children who are not adequately dressed, thus marginalizing poor children further
  • children need specialized clothing for certain activities, e.g. physical education, or they cannot participate
  • parents living in poverty become extremely stressed when unable to provide basic items such as school supplies or boots for their children
  • children’s basic need for warm winter clothing is a legal and moral issue and must be met

Funding and Program Partners

The Kids’ Basics program is generously supported by RBC Foundation, CIBC and the JP Bickell Foundation to name a few. The Charger Foundation holds an annual golf tournament with the proceeds going towards providing snowsuits for kids in need. Jo’s Snowflake Fund (at the TCF) ensures that children who are entering shelters are comforted by new books, toys, pajamas, slippers, blankets and personal care items. Humbervale Montessori School has been the lead supporter of our backpack program for years. YM Inc. generously donates thousands of clothing items for children and youth.

Program Impact

The children Windfall helps are dealing with: abuse, poverty, homelessness, parental drug abuse and crime, immigration and settlement. Agencies working with these children (and in many cases, their families as well) face multiple challenges and have clearly identified a strong need to assist the children by providing them with new clothing and other basic-needs items. The items are needed not only for pride, dignity, self-esteem and feelings of being cared for, but also for participation in school programs. During the cold Canadian winters, a snowsuit or coat, boots, hats and mittens are basic necessities of life.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Children are generally poor because their families are poor. But more than one-third of low-income children in Ontario are children of the working poor."

"In 2009, 111,300 children living in poverty had at least one parent who worked the equivalent of a full-time full-year."

Participant Vignette

"As a parent/child drop-in, Parent Resources serves many families who find it very difficult to meet their daily needs. We are all very grateful to have a place like Windfall that provides vital support for parents and children in our community.

Many new immigrants in our community are unable to maintain a lifestyle expected of them without the help of an agency like yours. It is difficult to feed and meet even the basic needs of a family on a very limited income. As our children grow, it becomes more expensive to clothe them properly. All the time, children come into our Centre with coats that should be in the garbage. Their snowsuits and coats are ripped, dirty, old, the wrong size and not warm enough. The children get frostbite on their hands and faces. They desperately need coats, hats, mitts, boots and scarves. So many are recent immigrants and refugees – they have nothing.

Windfall has helped them keep warm from head to foot in the cold winters. Without your support, the families would not be able to afford such good quality clothing and footwear. Some children would surely suffer from the bitter cold. On behalf of the many families we serve at Parent Resources, we wish to thank you for all your generosity and continued assistance to our community and we hope our partnership will last for many more years."

- Rosemarie M. River Oak Parent/Child Centre

What You Can Do

Windfall Basics

Activities a donation will support

For every $1 Windfall spends to operate, $56 worth of brand-new items are put into the social service system to help those who need it most. The donation-to-distribution process involves: researching donors, contacting donors and creating relationships with them, securing the donations, picking up the donated items, unloading items from trucks and bringing them into the warehouse to be unpacked, sorted, counted, de-labelled, and packed for distribution, and distributing the items to partner agencies. Windfall’s programs offer an easy and efficient way for businesses to meet their community involvement mandates.

Donation impact

Windfall does not provide a band-aid solution to poverty. Clients receiving the items are registered participants in social service programs and are working hard to improve their life circumstances. The benefits of receiving brand-new basic-needs items are immeasurable. Windfall currently meets approximately 20% of the need. Program expansion is vital. Financial assistance will enable Windfall to increase the number of items distributed in order to reach more people in need.

 

Employment Basics

Activities a donation will support

Clients enrolled in employment programs are dedicated to improving their job skills. Many are ready to go to interviews but do not have appropriate clothing to wear to the interview and later, to their daily job. Employers size up a candidate within a matter of seconds. Applicants who are not properly dressed and groomed do not get jobs. Grant assistance will enable Windfall to secure more employment-related clothing such as suits, shirts, ties, shoes, blouses and socks. Outdoor-related work wear such as work boots, heavy winter jackets, hats and mittens will also be provided to clients who get outdoor jobs.

Donation impact

Every year, Windfall provides on-site job placements with training and supervision to more than 20 individuals. These clients receive valuable and meaningful work experience in a Canadian setting. Windfall also partners with 14 employment programs in the Great Toronto Area, providing them with brand-new work-related clothing and personal care items. Thousands of marginalized job-seekers benefit from the Employment Basics program. Financial assistance will enable Windfall to expand this critical program to provide more people with more work-related pieces as they return to work.

 

Kids' Basics

Activities a donation will support

There are very few children’s retailers and manufacturers in Toronto. Windfall’s Kids’ Basics program is always seeking out new and innovative ways to provide children in need with new clothing and other basic-needs items. Activities include raising funds to purchase necessary items at cost or lower. Grant money can go four times further through Windfall’s contacts in the clothing industry. $25 provides a child living in a shelter with a new snowsuit, hat, mittens, winter pants and winter top. Or, $25 provides a child in a shelter with a brand-new school backpack full of new school supplies.

Donation impact

Children in shelters have had their lives turned upside-down. Abused women often flee with little more than the clothes on their backs. Their children’s belongings are often left behind. Children usually have to change schools for safety purposes thus disturbing their security even further. A new snowsuit, backpack and comfort pack help to ease the stress and trauma. There are more than 21,000 children and youth on Windfall’s roster, and the Kids’ Basics program meets about 1/3 of the need. Financial support would enable the program to expand to provide as many children as possible with the basics-needs they require.

Contact

Helen Harakas
Executive Director
416.703.8435
Charitable Number: 135401180RR0001

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 1,116,297

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