Mediaplanet: What inspired you to contribute to a local Toronto community?

Jim Creeggan:  My mother was a driving force in my community when I was young.  She started a recycling depot at the old General Electric building by Port Union and Lawrence.  We used to spend Saturday afternoons smashing bottles in a dumpster for her.  Knowing that we were starving landfill sites made the smashing twice as satisfying. Back then recycling was a new word and curbside pick up was just a twinkle in my mom’s eye.  She also started a community choir (The West Hill Singers).  Even though the Wednesday night practices used to drive me crazy; the smell of coffee and adults laughing all the time...I was still proud of my mom.  She was making our neighborhood a fun place to grow up, and now I’m compelled to do the same thing for my kids.

MP: Why is investing in kids important?

JC: I can still remember the teachers that gave me a chance to try something new.  Whether it was challenging me to play the ‘Brandenburg Concerto’ or putting the high jump bar a little higher for the next try, the support they gave me stays with me to this day.  At my local school I facilitated an ‘Open Mic’ at every gathering (pancake breakfasts, BBQ’s etc.).

In the beginning the kids were very nervous to perform, however after the third year of singing and playing they were owning the stage like seasoned pros!  It was clear that for the rest of their lives, these kids would not be afraid of public speaking or performance.  The little effort it took to post a sign-up sheet and set up a few mics empowered their lives forever.  Every little bit counts. Big time.

MP: What has been one of your most memorable experiences in charity work?

JC: We decided to create and perform a play at my local school.  It was a difficult year because we had lost a student to cancer.  I think coming together to make art was the only way we knew how to deal with the loss.  With the support of the parents we wrote a musical based on a poem by the student.  Kids, teachers and parents collaborated together to write the story, the songs and the dances.  It centered around a girl who was nervous about going to the local bakery at lunch hour.  It had rapping, crossing guards, dancing pedestrians, artsy parents, transformative Portuguese tarts and more.  There were many laughs and not a dry eye in the house.  Ultimately by coming together and reflecting on our collective experience, we became a stronger community.

MP: What would you suggest to someone looking to make a positive difference?

JC: In our community parks and schools there is always room for help.  Often local park groups have a website that let’s you know how to participate. Visiting your local school principal is the best way to find ways of contributing at schools.

MP: What drives your passion in philanthropy?

JC: It really is an honour to be able to help someone or a community.  I am grateful for everyone who helped me find my way, and in turn I’ve been inspired to help others in a similar way.  However, I think that we should continue to strengthen and support our schools. Ultimately our kids should be given what they need to learn and grow in class.  After that, if a volunteer can help out a little, it’s just makes everything a little brighter!