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Helpers: Symons gears up for another summer helping the vulnerable

Big-hearted Thorold community advocate ready to do his part for Niagara – and Ukraine
James Symons. ThoroldToday file photo.

It's been a rough start to the year around the globe, as headlines about inflation, war and political unrest have left many people jaded and concerned about the future. For Thorold resident and charity organizer James Symons, it's just another sign that the community needs together and work from within to begin making a difference–no matter the size.

After a quiet start to the year, Symons is ready to get to work, he tells ThoroldToday.

"I gave myself some time off and relaxed and enjoyed some quiet," Symons said. "But I'm back and ready and willing to serve with any organization that needs me," he continued.

He's known to locals as a community advocate with a big heart for Niagara's most vulnerable members–notably men on the street that he has been helping through his survival kits handed out through ToolBox Niagara. On Wednesday, he'll receive recognition from the mayor of St. Catharines.

"I don't feel it's my award," said Symons. "It belongs to the community at large, and my team that builds ToolBox. I appreciate it, but this is a team effort."

As per usual, Symons has his sight set on more helpful goals that he is hoping to see happen locally.

"Later this month I will be helping United Way to collect women's hygiene products and I am hoping that the city of Thorold will be signing the Period Promise, offering free hygiene products at city hall and at the TCAG."

That cause is particularly relevant right now, he pointed out, as the cost of essentials like groceries, gas and rent have all skyrocketed.

"Period supplies are just another expense, but it is one that is a part of our health," Symons said. "You need to pay higher rent and might not get enough hours at your minimum wage job. In those cases, it's an expense that makes life even more difficult."

Another event Symons has in the works is a Pasta Night in benefit of Ukraine. He's still awaiting final confirmation, but it's leaning toward the start of May.

Symons will also be giving two weeks of his time to the Canada Summer Games as a volunteer. He doesn't know in what department yet.

"I'll be the mascot if I have to," he joked. "I think the games will be a great way to get some action to Niagara. The legacy of having the games, and the building will be huge."