Denis Sacks honoured for his support of youth

Malcolm Campbell 

News Reporter

The Rotary Club honoured a man who spent decades working for a charity aimed at helping youth with an award.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Denis Sacks for his work in the community by the Toronto Rotary Club West at its annual Youth Impact Awards gala on Jan. 30 at the Old Mill Restaurant.

Sacks and his wife Sue immigrated to Canada from South Africa in 1979. He quickly moved up the rungs of the corporate ladder at PepsiCo, and is now with the PepsiCo Foundation Canada.

Sacks was actively involved with the foundation for more than 20 years and for the past 10 he has been the president. He directed  the charity to focus more on healthy living among youth and less on substance abuse prevention.

He said the decision to alter the mandate was made because the products and resources at Pepsi’s disposal lend themselves to healthy living.

This change is evident through the types of organizations the foundation supports. The One By One program supplies breakfasts to underprivileged youth in First Nations’ communities, and provides education about nutrition and healthy eating.

The foundation also supports a variety of community clubs that offer a wide range of services and activities for youth. The Jerry Love Centre in Mississauga, the YMCA throughout the GTA and The Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club are all financially helped by the foundation.

Each of these organizations acts as a hub within their communities, creating opportunities for youth to engage in sports and cultural events, educational and vocational programs. These organizations have become integral to the neighbourhoods they serve.

Amanda Neale-Robinson, sponsorship and events co-ordinator at The Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club, emphasized the lifelong impact community centres such as theirs have.

“We provide a continuum of services for young people, all the way up to adulthood so we can instil strong, positive values, so they’ll participate in social activities, engage with their peers and mentors, and have every opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Neale-Robinson.

A major function of the program is to give youth the abilities and opportunities for meaningful employment later in life.  The Boys and Girls Club and The Gap, a national sponsor, work together to offer the leaders-in-training a chance at trying work in the retail sector.

“For a lot of young people retail is usually one of the first job opportunities that they have so this is a great way for them to put some work experience on their resume,” said Neale-Robinson.

The club is also the largest employer of youth in the downtown-east neighbourhood. Close to 90 young people are employed part-time, most of which are alumni of the leaders-in-training program.