Mike Novarro knows what it’s like to be struggling at Christmas.
Now a successful business owner with two adult daughters, he remembers the days when he was out of work, and looking for help to give his girls a happy Christmas.
“I’ve been in need myself,” he says. “I know what it feels like.”
He was a single dad who looked after his girls three days a week, and was unemployed for a time. “There wasn’t going to be a Christmas. I was down and out, and the Salvation Army pulled through.”
He was given enough food to last his family through the holidays, including a turkey dinner, Christmas cake, and all the trimmings.
“I went to the Salvation Army to pick up the food, and it was a huge shock to see how much stuff they had for us. I had to make two trips. There was so much more than I expected.”
On Christmas morning, his girls “were ecstatic. They were very, very surprised, and I was in tears watching them. It was a really good feeling.”
Once his landscaping company got going, he helped out at the Salvation Army, sorting food and toys at Christmas, and loading vehicles with Christmas gifts. It was hard work, but it was an opportunity for him to help others, as a way of giving back for the help he received.
Then, for a time, when he had his landscaping business up and running but before he began offering snow removal service in the winter, he went to work nights for Out of the Cold in St. Catharines, which provides meals and overnight shelter during the cold months, at various churches.
He would help prepare meals, and was a night supervisor, working at six different churches where the program was offered.
“I saw the need first hand, and it wasn’t just adults. There were kids there as well, young kids. They don’t turn anybody away.”
He’s never been in a parade before, but he decided this year would be a first, to collect warm mittens and hats for Out of the Cold.
“I think it’s a good way to do something for those in need. I know there are others who collect food, so we decided this was a good alternative. I’m excited to be part of the parade, and I’m looking forward to decorating the truck, with a sound system, a Christmas tree and lights, and some blow-up animation figures. I want to make it look great. And I’m hoping to get the word out for people to bring hats and mittens for Out of the Cold.”
His wife Sheena, daughters, extended family and staff will be in the parade with him, and he hopes to have a good load of warm outerwear to drop off at Out of the Cold.
Novarro’s experience of being in need, and then helping out at the Salvation Army and Out of the Cold, “made me realize there are many reasons for helping people, and a lot of ways to help. The need will always be there, and it feels good now that it’s my time to give back.”