Power of One: Tea party brings new toys to children in women's shelters
Published Sunday, December 11, 2011 3:54PM EST
MONTREAL - An idea that brewed from a tea party in a Westmount woman's home is turning it into a worldwide charitable affair.
In1991, Ginger Petty invited her friends over for tea on one condition: that they bring a new toy for a child spending the holidays in a women's shelter.
Twenty years later, the Toy Tea, as it's now called, has provided more than 100,000 new toys to children living in 32 women's shelters and seven other children's charities in the Montreal area.
"Children who reside in a shelter during the year do receive new toys and they're so appreciative. They love the labels. They love the saran wrap," said Petty.
"Thank goodness we have a safe place where women can go with their children so they have time and peace and a little assistance to deal with issues."
The shelters recognize her major contribution.
"She's a very compassionate, caring woman who had a mission and accomplished her mission," said Diane Sasson, executive director of Auberge Shalom.
Irene Jansson, director of Auberge Transition, agrees.
"She constantly strives to better the lives of the women and the children who are sheltered and the Toy Tea is only one example," said Jansson. "She has the force of many women put together in one person."
When the Toy Tea became too large for Petty's home in 2000, she began hosting it at Ogilvy's department store, where it continues to grow.
Her work has been so appreciated over the years there that she was recently inducted into Ogilvy's Hall of Fame.
This year, students from 30 schools participated in the event by performing in choirs or collecting toys.
"I think that what Ginger Petty has done is really amazing," said Chloe Shahinian, a grade 8 student from The Study. "The fact that she's able to help all those children in shelters across the city over the holidays."
But Petty is moving on, and passing the baton to Claire Kruyt, this year's Toy Tea co-chair.
"Ginger has been doing this with such a dedication and passion and wonderment for the last 20 years that it's a little daunting," admitted Kruyt.
Petty, however, isn't giving up the reins to slow down. Instead, she'll be taking toy tea around the world, asking women to hold the event in their own backyards to support children and victims of domestic violence.
"Invite friends for a cup of tea, a holiday sweet and raise toys for kids that they don't even know, but that need some help where they live," said Petty.