As a core principle of my life, I believe that it is important to live with the mindset of making things better for others. When you step forward into the world with kind intentions and a compassionate heart, good is likely to follow in your wake. With that having been said, I wish to take a few moments to introduce you to a friend of mine. Her name is Rose Wilton. Rose runs an organization in Port Hope, Ontario, called The Rose Project. I want to showcase Rose and her good works because she is a perfect example of the good that comes from having a charitable heart, a determined mind and a willingness to step up and turn those thoughts and words into action that makes a difference. Although young, Rose is becoming a community leader. This is her story.
Rose and her sister, Jules, have lived fortunate lives. They were raised by parents who both possess kind and generous hearts. Larry and Deb Wilton have lived their lives filled with love for each other, for their family, for their friends, for Nature, for the Arts and for humanity, too. They are well-known for sharing meals with anyone who is lonely or down on their luck. They are the type of folks who walk along the Lake front trails of Port Hope, stopping to pick up litter as they walk so that the beauty of the trails can be maintained. They have lived lives of charity and have inspired others to look at life with more compassionate eyes. One of those most profoundly moved by their example was their daughter, Rose.
Approximately six or seven years ago, Rose found herself with a collection of small soaps and other tiny toiletries that she was given or had acquired from hotels on family vacations. Rose didn’t really need these toiletries for herself but, she felt guilty about simply throwing them away when there were others who could possibly use them. So, she came up with an idea. Rose decided to sort her toiletries in a way that allowed her to make up kits that contained deodorant, tooth paste and a tooth brush, some shampoo and so on. Rose decided to take a kit into Toronto the next time she went, to see if a homeless person, living on the mean streets of Canada’s biggest city, might have some use for the contents inside. There were no shortage of potential candidates. Rose opted to approach someone living outside of the Eaton Centre Shopping Mall. She cautiously approached and then, quietly offered the person her toiletry kit, asking if it could be of any use. Her gesture was greeted with much appreciation. Rose’s heart was filled with joy at having been able to make a difference for this one person. That moment helped crystallize an idea that, previously, had seemed like a flight of fancy but now, outside a bustling mall in Toronto, was brought into sharper focus. Rose felt empowered. She decided to dedicate a large part of her life to helping to bring some small measure of dignity to those on the edges of our society. Thus, The Rose Project was born.
When Rose returned to her home, she went on social media to ask her friends and neighbours for donations of new, unused/unopened toiletries. She was met with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from the local community. To fast forward a bit, since her first request for donations, until today, Rose has been able to fill kits that number into the thousands. She has broadened her donation reach, based upon experience, and now collects new socks, mittens, hats, Tim Horton coffee gift cards, too. Rose continues to provide kits for the homeless in big cities such as Toronto but, as word of The Rose Project has spread, she has been contacted by Women’s Shelters, local schools and other community-based organizations that work with folks in need in her area. Rose has become a community leader in Port Hope and has been recognized with multiple Port Hope Community Civic Service awards for her volunteer efforts.
While Rose’s decision to help others continues to make life better and is worth celebrating for that fact alone, there is more about Rose that I value. Just like Rose’s parents, Larry and Deb, I, too, believe that one of my most important roles in life is that of setting a good example for my children. Sometimes, that takes the form of being a good role-model, myself and leading my girls to do good deeds by the example I try to set for them. But, in addition to that, there are times when I seek others to help reinforce the messages I wish to impart. As a teacher or as a father, any time I can place my girls/my students in the presence of a strong, successful female role-model, I jump at the chance. For that reason, I am very grateful to Rose for helping to play a significant part of my eldest daughter, Leah’s birthday a few years ago. Here is that story.
Leah loves the TV show, The Amazing Race Canada. So, for her with birthday, we used the format of the show to take Leah and her friends…all girls….on a nine-stop race around Cobourg and Port Hope. Most of the stops had some connection to Leah’s life but two, were different. I wanted Leah and her friends to have an opportunity to “give back”, as it were, during the course of this party. So, one of the stops was at our local animal shelter (where the kids walked dogs, cleaned cat kennels and where we made a donation of food, blankets and money when we were done). The other stop was at Rose Wilton’s house to help prepare some kits.
After the kits were all filled, Larry and Deb invited the girls to gather round their table for some delicious brownies and chocolate milk. Leah was even given a special present at this time; a beautiful rose pin that she still treasures to this day. The kindness and generosity of the Wilton Family helped make Leah’s birthday resonate in a way that most birthdays don’t. My gratitude to them and, in particular, to Rose is immeasurable.
In this photo, Rose’s sister, Jules, helps to deliver kits to Port Hope High School. The Rose Project is very much a family affair, with all members of the Wilton Family helping with the processing of donations (which often fill every nook and cranny of their cozy home), the preparing of the kits and the delivering of them to local spots, as well as, going on road trips to bigger cities. It is hard work to do what the Wiltons do but, as Rose would readily attest to, it is work that is important to do and work that she and her family wouldn’t hesitate to do if it meant bringing dignity to those for whom life has turned a blind eye.
For me, the impact of The Rose Project extends beyond the immediate helping of those in need. What Rose and her family have done for my girls and their friends is to make it seem normal for women to be successful agents for change. They give my girls the impression that being a female who has achieved great things is just a regular thing for a woman to do. Because of Rose and Jules and Deb, my daughters don’t really worry themselves about such arbitrary concepts as glass ceilings. My girls look at the Wiltons and believe that being of service to others is ok for them too. So, they do lots of good things, as well. From where I sit, I don’t get the sense that the girls think they are anything special because of what they do, for them, they just think it is what all girls can do.
Whether it is her Battery Bucket or cleaning the beach with her friend, Sophie is becoming quite an empowered young lady, just like Rose.
As well, Leah is developing quite a name for herself as a young historian. In this photo, Leah is giving a history talk on the sinking of the Titanic to senior citizens at The Rosewood Retirement Residence in Cobourg. The folks there have taken a real shine to Leah and think she is quite something for being so smart, mature and well-spoken. Leah, from her point of view, thinks being an intelligent and successful female is not that big of a deal. Thanks to Rose, Leah thinks that there is nothing unusual about being a girl in the spotlight.
Ideas and intentions are wonderful things. But, ideas and intentions put into action become powerful things. Rose Wilton is changing the lives of those in need around her and inspiring other girls to believe that they have the power to bring their own ideas to fruition. What a tremendous legacy to have. What a truly accomplished woman you have become, Rose. Thanks for all that you do for everyone. The link to The Rose Project’s Facebook Page can be found here. ***Just fyi, Rose cannot accept cash donations because The Rose Project is not yet a registered charity. But, if you wish to make a donation of new, unused toiletries, socks, etc., you can contact Rose directly through her Facebook page or else, you can contact me and I will make sure Rose gets whatever you might care to donate.