While volunteering with his mom and brother preparing food at the Salvation Army soup kitchen in 2018, Enrique Mena of Barrie saw something that triggered a passion inside him.
“In the entrance, I saw at least five homeless people just laying down there on the ground. That was what really inspired me to help make a change in their lives,” said the 15-year-old, who is a sergeant in the air cadets.
Enrique applied for a grant through the Passion to Purpose (P2P), an initiative by the late Prince Philip through the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Canada.
“I had to write an essay about what I was doing, as well as do a budget and when it should end,” said Enrique.
For his effort, he received $1,000 from P2P.
Enrique has used the money to purchase food and make sandwiches to feed the city’s homeless.
“I have been handing them around at various areas downtown. We give them a sandwich, bottled water or a juice box, and an apple or a banana.”
Enrique began his weekend food distribution in late February.
While he has used up the grant money, he has fundraised over $1,700 and is grateful for the support he has received from a number of businesses, private individuals and churches to allow his effort to continue.
This has allowed Enrique to expand his donations to include clothing, coats other items. Up until now, he has given out close to 50 coats, 250 pairs of socks and 30 blankets.
Enrique said he has had many positive reactions from the people he is trying to help.
“One that touched me the most is when we were helping two gentlemen and one lady, and we noticed the two men didn’t have any jackets on. We went into our family van and got them two nice jackets and they started dancing with joy.”
With the stay-at-home order, Enrique has temporarily hit the pause button, but he intends to hit the streets again once it is lifted.