By Nancy Milton

Eight years ago last September, my boys and I shared a conversation at the dinner table about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and what Thanksgiving was about. Our conversation covered things like what we value as a family (love, speaking from our heart, gratitude and humility), what thanks feels like and how to help more people who have less. The local school the kids went to was doing a food drive and sending a couple cans of soup didn’t feel like it was enough.

So, the boys and I decided to create our own food drive. We got boxes for our wagon, made a couple “food drive/give thanks” signs and practiced what we would say when people would answer their front door. The three of us then hit the pavement, going door-to-door asking for non-perishable food donations.

When my youngest was just four years old, his greeting sounded something like this:

“Hi, my name is Nate. Can you donate some cans of food for people who don’t have food at Thanksgiving?”

This year it sounded more like this:

“Good evening. I’m Nate. For eight years my Mom, brother and I have collected non-perishable food in our neighbourhood to donate for Thanksgiving to our local food bank, The Compass, and we’re wondering if you would like contribute this year.”

We typically go door-to-door twice just before Thanksgiving, three or four hours in all. We set goals for our collection which take us to collect over 250 items annually.

Our “family-made” food drive is a real gift to us, for a whole bunch of reasons:

  • Few adults are comfortable going door-to-door, networking or asking for help. This is a life skill the boys are developing that will assist them with job interviews, school presentations and first dates.
  • The food drive keeps us connected to the importance of giving forward, gratitude, humility and empathy.
  • We are role-modeling to every person whose door we knock on, and to every person who hears our story. We are never too young or too old to role model. Some years they have had friends join us for the experience. One year the boys were interviewed on Citytv because of their amazing 300+ item haul.

As a Momma Bear, I love watching the boys own the collection with the simple understanding that it is “just something we do, because it’s right for us to do.”

Doing this collection for The Compass, you would think this was us giving The Compass a gift, but this is not the case. The Compass, every year, has given us a gift, through this experience of compassion and kindness.

Nancy Milton is an accredited international facilitator and executive coach in the communication & leadership sector. Her charitable work for 10+ years has revolved around ovarian cancer and more recently youth mental illness. She and her boys have lived in the neighbourhood for 14 years. Learn more about Nancy at

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