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Oshawa, Ont. business helps brighten the holidays for youth at The Refuge

Click to play video: 'Oshawa business brightens the holidays for youth'
Oshawa business brightens the holidays for youth
WATCH: Teddy's Restaurant and GlobalMedic helped brighten the holidays for some youth with a meal and hygiene kits at The Refuge in Oshawa. Aaron Streck reports – Dec 23, 2019

Christmas is only sleeps away, and while the anticipation is building for many youth, it isn’t for all.

A couple of businesses decided to brighten the holidays for some of the children who need it most, as they prepared a meal and gave away hygiene items at The Refuge in Oshawa Monday.

Bill Panos was busy in the kitchen over the lunch hour, but the new owner of Teddy’s Restaurant wasn’t at his own kitchen — instead, he was helping feed about 50 youth at The Refuge.

“We just want to make sure we’re giving back to the Oshawa community because Oshawa supports us,” said Panos.

And it wasn’t your traditional holiday feast.

“Chicken parmesan, spaghetti, we have coconut cream pie for desert,” said Panos.

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Brittany Wright is a mother of two children, with a third on the way. She says she’s been coming to The Refuge for the past five years.

On Monday, she brought her daughter, Misty, for a warm meal.

“It gets to be a bit of a struggle and it’s a community,” said Wright. “A place like this kind of reaches out to them and lets them know that there are people that care and they’re not alone.”

Panos has volunteered with GlobalMedic for the past 12 years, which included helping in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.

“Soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant — you know, all the things we take for granted,” said Rahul Singh, GlobalMedic executive director, describing some of the items being donated.

Usually tasked with assisting after disasters abroad, the organization also handed out hygiene kits at The Refuge.

“It’s important for us as community members to give back, not only around the world but to our own communities,” said Singh.

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“I remember one year … our youth called home for the first time in many years and the response at the other end was a mom who said you’re still alive, so Christmas is difficult, it’s often filled with pain,” said Clarence Keesman, executive director at The Refuge Youth Outreach Centre.

Since The Refuge opened 20 years ago, over 500 young people have come for help, whether in the form of meals or programs.

“At the core is this need for family and we’re all one big dysfunctional family,” said Kreesman.

“To know that people in the community care about what someone else is going through often is a sense of hope for the youth that come here.”

As for Panos, this isn’t a one-off. He’s planning to serve meals like Monday’s during the years ahead.

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