Colin Campbell came to Canada from Guyana in 2003 newly married and prepared to start over from scratch.
From his first jobs selling newspaper subscriptions outside a Toronto subway station to managing a number of electronics stores, he quickly built a life for himself and his family, but that all changed when he was laid off during a corporate restructuring.
Undaunted, he spent the next year as a stay-at-home dad before returning to retail, but he was a changed man. He wanted to pursue his passion for real estate and did just that, with the encouragement of his wife.
But it was a tough road. Six months into his new career, the family found their finances drained and, for the very first time, found themselves at the Aurora Food Pantry to make ends meet.
It was a stark jolt to the system, and an experience he wouldn’t soon forget, but now that he’s found success as a broker in the Aurora and Newmarket community with Keller Williams Realty Centres, he’s working hard this holiday season to improve the lives of people who depend on the organizations that helped him when he needed it most.
On Saturday, in partnership with Curtis White, Manager of Aurora’s Real Canadian Superstore, Campbell delivered the makings of more than 500 holiday meals to organizations ranging from the Aurora Food Pantry to Newmarket’s Inn from the Cold.
“When I first got into real estate, the first six to nine months were very hard because I left a corporate job where I was no longer happy and no longer feeling fulfilled, and I decided I wanted to pursue something I love,” says Campbell. “Six months in, we got to a point where there were more days remaining than monies in the bank. My wife and I talked and she said, ‘The next thing we can do is go to the food bank.’
“I had been in Canada for over 20 years and never once had I been to a food bank, never once had I collected unemployment insurance or anything like that because I didn’t want to see myself taking from the system. We went to the food bank for almost four months and one day in our garage on a Saturday morning, my wife was getting ready to pack the bags to go to the food bank and there was this look in her eyes that I saw like, ‘I am happy to do this for my family,’ but I saw her disappointment as a husband. That look is not something I think she would acknowledge or admit, but just seeing that was almost my breaking point where I felt my back was finally against the wall. It is only in times like that where you realize how strong you are.”
His work paid off and money started to come in. He built a business and, looking back on his food bank experience, he is grateful because they were there when they needed him. Now he’s there for them.
Since 2019, Campbell and White have worked together to collect food for the Food Pantry and similar organizations. They started off with a goal to feed 100 families in that first year, but managed to serve 150. In their second year, at the height of the global pandemic, they set a goal of helping 200, but ultimately collected 300.
This year, that number soared to 500 families who, due to a turkey shortage, will receive hams with all the trimmings.
“The last thing I wanted to do was distribute 500 meals,” says Campbell, “and this was not the way we wanted to go. We wanted to give directly to the food banks because they have a way of deciding who gets it. I needed the food bank a long time ago, so now that I’m in a position to help, I want to give back through those same channels.
“If you have enough and someone is in need, you share. I didn’t have enough at one point and our local food bank helped save my family. Now, through our collaboration with Curtis, we’re able to support 500 families in York Region. Next year, the goal is going to be 1,000. The big goal that both Curtis and I joke about is what would it look like if we were to feed a million people? What would that look like? Let’s start this journey!”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran