Volunteers rally to replace TVs for Rothwell kids

<!– PUBLISH DATE TimeSincePublished(“2010-01-16-04:30:00″,”2010-01-18″,”Jan. 16, 2010”);–> , The Hamilton Spectator,
(Jan 16, 2010)

When volunteer Marissa Cunnington learned someone had stolen TVs, DVDs and video-game systems from the kids at the Eva Rothwell Resource Centre, she made a pledge.

She resolved that the donated items would be replaced before she graduated from university.

“I was really upset,” she said. “I knew right away that something had to be done. That wasn’t fair.”

Tonight, the fourth-year McMaster sociology student hopes to raise enough money to replace all the stolen items, and then some.

Cunnington and her friends have organized a benefit concert at the Corktown Pub on Young Street, starting at 8 p.m.

Musicians are donating their performances, so all of the $10 entry charge is going back to the centre.

Cunnington, like dozens of other students from McMaster, Mohawk College and Redeemer University College, is a volunteer at the Rothwell centre, in the former Robert Land School on Wentworth Street North.

The centre is a vibrant hub for the under-serviced Keith neighbourhood, a residential island between Barton and Burlington streets where poverty and crime had long been problems.

The community bought the school and created the centre itself, and for the last three years it has served as a place where neighbours congregate and where those who need help can get food, clothing and furniture.

About 200 people visit the centre every day, taking part in more than 25 different programs.

But twice last year, someone stole donated electronics from a space designated for children and youth. Neither theft has been resolved, and there is still about $1,200 in games and TVs to replace.

“The equipment was for the children,” said fellow volunteer and organizer Lena Pignatelli, also a McMaster student. “It’s a disappointment when you’re given something and it’s taken away, and it needs to be rectified.”

Cunnington, Pignatelli and about half a dozen of their schoolmates visit kids at the centre after school on Wednesdays, just as other groups visit other days.

They watch movies, play games, help with homework and talk about life. The time is as rewarding for them as it is for the kids.

“I love them. I so enjoy going,” Cunnington said. “I have learned what my passion in life is.”

Volunteers make the Rothwell centre work, said Ted Hodkinson, manager of programs and services. With only five staff members, the centre has a roster of about 200 volunteers.

“The kids in this neighbourhood have mentors to look up to,” he said. “They can talk with the students and see they can go to university and college, too.”



[Community Volunteer Action is an OPIRG McMaster Working Group – check them out here]