Volunteer spends 74th birthday making Santa Claus Fund boxes

Fred Mirza has been with the charity since 1990 and shows no signs of slowing down


It’s Fred Mirza’s 74th birthday.

But the long-time Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund volunteer doesn’t tell any of the dozen-or-so other elves around him in the workshop; he just laughs when he lets it slip, says not to make a big deal about it.

Mirza has been involved in this operation since 1990. He remembers the early days of delivering holiday gift boxes door to door to children in need as being quite the operation.

“We didn’t have GPS in those days,” laughs the veteran volunteer. “We were sorting addresses with a flashlight and a phone book.”

Mirza was also one of the initial leaders who helped to bring Scouts Canada into the annual charity mix.

“It’s a great lesson for our little Scouts to get this knowledge,” he says. “Their eyes open; they have everything, most of them, so to see these kids who need (the boxes) is a really good learning experience, for sure.

“I don’t think that child poverty in Toronto is really visible to them. And they volunteer to come help again next year.”

The times may have changed but Mirza’s dedication hasn’t waned at all. When he retired in January after 35 years of service with Transport Canada, he said he called up and got to work.

“What better way to pass time?”

Mirza has been holding down the mystery warehouse where Santa Fund boxes are packed and organized since September. He says the operation becomes “more high tech” with each passing year.

“The brains behind these operations have thought of everything now,” he tells me, “The logistics of what (boxes) to put where and how to sort them out, age wise… It’s working like a charm…”

Someone cuts the music and makes an announcement of Mirza’s big day. (Maybe I let it slip to management that someone should be celebrated.)

He shakes his head and waves, flushed, when his colleagues start to cheer and sing.

“That was slightly embarrassing,” he tells me later. “It’s really not about me.”

For Mirza, the reward is “that smile when the kids come.”

He recalls greeting children, with his white beard, Scout uniform and Santa hat at the door. “Their eyes popped off,” he laughs.

“The bottom line is that we are helping 45,000 kids who would not have (anything) if we had not gone out and helped them,” he says. “I spread (the word) in my own community, through everything I do. If you have the time, go out and do it. That’s my bottom line.”

What a birthday gift, indeed.

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