DeRico Symonds is no stranger to supporting his community, but this time he’s doing it with turkeys.
Symonds has launched a GoFundMe campaign called The Give BACK for families who may not be able to afford or access a Christmas supper. The donations will pay for a Christmas turkey dinner and fixings, plus a $50 gift card.
The idea for the campaign came to him around Thanksgiving. “I was thinking … my meal is great, but I know there’s a lot of other people in the city who don’t get to sit down and have a meal like this,” Symonds said.
Symonds hopes to provide a supper for eight families: two each from Mulgrave Park, Uniacke Square, “the Pubs” (Bayers/Westwood) and Dartmouth North. He plans to ask community leaders and organizations for help in selecting the families.
Symonds, 27, is singlehandedly organizing the fundraiser and shopping for the groceries. He wants to deliver the meals from Dec. 21 to 23, which are his vacation days off work.
He works as the manager of the Halifax Regional Municipality’s Youth Advocate and Souls Strong programs, which focus on youth in vulnerable communities or positions. Symonds also serves on many boards throughout HRM.
Symonds grew up in “the Pubs” in social housing. He drew inspiration from his mom and other role models at the St. Andrew’s Community Centre, where he got a part-time job in junior high and has since held many different positions.
“The combination of having good mentors and growing up in an environment like that kind of steered me in the direction of wanting to do something different than what was happening around me,” said Symonds.
Symonds completed his bachelor of applied arts in child and youth studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in 2012, and is now working to complete his master of education in counselling at Acadia University. He earned a scholarship to Acadia through the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute.
The scholarship is only one of many recognitions and awards he has won for his work in communities and with youth, including the Diamond Jubilee Century of Service Award and the Irving & Ruth Pink Award for Youth Development and Social Justice.
Symonds co-founded Veith House’s Future Roots youth program with Lisa Roberts, the new MLA for Halifax Needham. Roberts describes him as a “challenging and wonderful collaborator.” She’s not surprised he launched a Christmas supper fundraiser.
“DeRico is very creative and he wants to make a difference,” Roberts said. “If he sees a need that he doesn’t think is being addressed by what exists right now, I think he has the confidence to try something different.”
The GoFundMe campaign had $225 pledged as of Friday. Symonds hopes for $800.
The fundraiser is a “completely separate program” from his extensive work with the city, but it’s just one more example of his passion for community.
“I’m really big on collective impact and everybody kind of taking responsibility for things that are happening around them,” he said.
“If everybody in HRM … took responsibility when other people are in need, you know, it would make it a much better place.”