Montreal’s Sun Youth Organization offers 30 different community assistance programs today, but the group grew out of humble beginnings: In 1954, a group of Montreal youngsters created a handwritten newspaper called The Clark Street Sun using the back of a local shoe store as a rent-free headquarters. The inner-city kids produced two copies of each issue—an original and a carbon—which were lent to local families for a fee of two cents.
The group generated $500 in their first year, allowing additional investment in production resources. Additional profits were used to purchase sports equipment, rent gymnasiums, and invest in recreational activities to keep local kids out of trouble. The organization came into its own as a full-fledged community partner in 1981, adopting the French name Jeunesse au Soleil. Today, they offer assistance programs to individuals and the greater Montreal community, including crime prevention, recreational activities, and emergency services.
In Times of Crisis
While Sun Youth’s emergency service offerings include a number of child-specific programs, such as school supply or bicycle distributions, the organization has also branched out to include assistance for families. According to their mission statement, “Sun Youth is committed to the entire community, without discrimination, by a dedicated commitment and an acute awareness of the continuing challenges.”
To meet those challenges, the organization has developed programs such as the Clothing Bank, which allows families to receive two large bags of donated clothes each season for a nominal handling fee, or the Monthly Food Supplement which is provided to seniors, HIV patients, and pregnant women. Based on financial need, members of these groups are given access to food distributions once each month for a year.
In Times of Need
Sun Youth also focuses on the medical needs of its clientele, and to that end has forged partnerships with local organizations such as McGill University and LASIK MD to offer low-cost (or free) dentistry and eyecare. Twice a year, the Dentistry Outreach program comes to Sun Youth to treat low-income families not covered by insurance—for example, new immigrants or new social assistance beneficiaries—can receive free cleanings, fillings, and tooth extractions, and other minor procedures.
The organization provides low or no-cost eyeglasses for families not covered by insurance, or who cannot afford the difference between the actual cost of eyeglasses and what an insurance policy will cover. This is a growing trend across many industries, where businesses such as LASIK MD provide assistance to those who need it most as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. In addition, LASIK MD’s laser vision correction helps thousands of people each year improve their vision, allowing them to donate their no longer needed eyeglasses to to those who are less fortunate.
The Sun Youth organization faces a rising need, but continues to make a difference in the lives of Montreal families and their children with support from government agencies and responsible corporations.