This year the annual Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association (NACCA) fundraising gala will feel a little extra special.
It marks the five-year anniversary since its launch and founder Jerisha Grant-Hall can’t help but say “wow” after reflecting on all the organization's accomplishments in the community.
“When I think back, It's absolutely incredible to see what we’ve been able to achieve in such a relatively short time,” she said. “NACCA started as an idea. An idea that Black and oppressed communities must have access to resources and opportunities for advancement. I am proud to say that we’ve kept this focus.”
Grant-Hall says that the strong working relationships they’ve built with the Town of Newmarket, Newmarket Public Library and York Region Food Network have been key to the organization’s ability to reach so many.
"When I look back, it’s amazing to see how much we have done, how many individuals and families we have served and how our network of supporters have grown,” she said. “As I look to the future, I can see how far we still have to go, but on the evening of Oct. 26, we will celebrate our volunteers and five years of accomplishments. On Oct. 27, we will continue to work for the people we serve.”
With the fundraising gala set for Thursday, Oct. 26 at the Old Town Hall in Newmarket, the night is about focusing on how important the volunteers within NACCA have been to its ability to make a difference.
Since its inception, NACCA has grown from five volunteers to more then 35 volunteers and has been able to launch an Africentric Kuumba summer camp; has directly impacted the lives of 466 individuals through its mental health program; launched the first Africentric library in York Region — the Iris Malcolm Library; awarded morej than $60,000 in scholarship funds to 40 students in York Region; and launched its community garden.
Grant-Hall said NACCA’s administrative expenses make up only nine per cent of its budget with 91 per cent going directly to the community it serves, meaning volunteers are everything to the organization.
“As a charity, as with all charities, we rely on and succeed because of our outstanding volunteers,” said Grant-Hall. “Without our volunteers, some of them with us from the very beginning, our efforts may not have as wide a reach. We are very fortunate to have an extremely active group of volunteers who are always willing to roll up their sleeves to ensure our services reach those who need them.”
NACCA’s six main areas of service are food security, mental health, scholarship awards, financial literacy, youth programs/Kuumba Camp, and Black youth leadership.
Grant-Hall says that without volunteers they would not be able to reach the hundreds of individuals who benefit from their services.
“We all know there are those in our community who are in need of services such as food security,” she said. “Because our volunteers are engaged, and for the most part, live and work in Newmarket, they also have a pulse on the need. These are the people who work tirelessly for those who don’t know where the next meal is coming from for their families, and have increasing need for mental health support, especially among our youth population.”
The gala will also be used as a fundraising opportunity for NACCA’s community programs and services. Grant-Hall notes that according to a report from Foodshare, 36.6 per cent of Black children live in food insecure households.
“We are also seeing a sharp increase in Black youth accessing mental health services,” she said. "Families continue to experience the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, its negative effect on our supply chain and the unbelievable increase in food, gas and shelter. As our community's needs increase, so must our ability to support community members who are in need of necessities, including food, shelter, mental health counselling and education.”
Seeing NACCA grow into such an impactful community organization has been so important to Grant-Hall, who said her mother was initially concerned about isolation and feeling “out of place” when moving to Newmarket.
“I recall how important it was for her to feel connected to a community and how much her well-being hinged on that reality,” she said. “When she passed away one year after we moved here and I began to experience some of the things she was concerned with, I knew I had to do something about it. Her passing became a pivotal moment for me that would fuel the desire to build and connect community, confront anti-Black racism and create space for equity, inclusion and decolonization. The last five years have been nothing short of doing exactly that. I know that she would be very proud of the collective work and its impact.”
Learn more about NACCA’s fundraising gala and appreciation night and buy tickets here.