Congratulations to our own Susan Scandiffio!

Leaside Life contributor Susan Scandiffio, winner of the 2024 Agnes Macphail award.
Leaside Life contributor Susan Scandiffio, winner of the 2024 Agnes Macphail award.

“The worst thing that can happen is people will say no.”

No one who knows her says “NO” to Susan Scandiffio, whose persistence has made her the recipient of the Agnes Macphail Award for 2024. Susan will receive this important honour officially at a ceremony at the East York Civic Centre on Sun., March 24, at 2 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

Susan was integral in involving the Leaside community in the Midtown Donation Group of Fill a Purse for a Sister campaign. Their efforts over a couple of years made up 1,362 purses containing personal care items, which they delivered to women’s shelters.

Susan was particularly impressed by the work of the Red Door Family Shelter, and has chosen this charity as the recipient of funds raised this year through The East York Foundation to support the Agnes Macphail Award. You can donate to The East York Foundation for this through Canada Helps.

Susan has been the organizer with a team called Moms of the Leaside Flames for the Terry Fox Run each year since 2012. She ensures all the members are signed up each year, and then proceeds with her individual fundraising, where she is described as a “fiercely competitive fundraiser.” Thanks to her persistence, they’ve raised close to $40,000. 

As a volunteer with the St. Vincent de Paul Society through St. Anselm’s Catholic Church, Susan visited residents of Thorncliffe Park. In some cases, the main part of the visit was to deliver food cards and do a bit of friendly visiting. But in other cases, other assistance was needed, such as accessing language classes or finding activities for children. No matter the task, Susan set herself to doing whatever was needed. In some cases, there were building problems like non-functioning elevators, or lack of heat, or water off for extended periods of time. The tenants weren’t comfortable making complaints, even though justified. Susan would go to management on their behalf and be persistent until the issue was resolved. As she says, “there is always a need for advocates.”

Pivoting during Covid

When Covid-19 arrived in March 2020, Susan quickly realized that many people in Thorncliffe Park were going to be adversely affected by the many pandemic restrictions, especially regarding access to food. She approached The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO) about setting up a food bank. When the Food Collaborative Project first started, there was a blanket on the ground with some food staples on it. Susan quickly went searching for people, businesses and organizations who could help in significant ways – tables, storage space, quantities of food. She spread the net wide, especially on social media. Many individuals dropped off donations to the bin on the front step of her house, which she ferried to Thorncliffe every day. She got the word out, and neighbourhood volunteers stepped up. As well, meetings she coordinated between the Leaside Toy Drive and TNO stakeholders resulted in more than $400,000 of corporate and community donations. Within the Leaside Toy Drive, she’s been involved over many years in making sure there are sufficient donations for toys for about 6,000 Thorncliffe and Flemingdon children every year.

It’s no surprise that Susan is the co-chair of the TNO Metrolinx Impact Committee, working with local businesses and organizations as the various aspects of the storage yard planned for the Ontario Line proceed.

Susan and her husband Dave.
Susan and her husband Dave.

Susan’s journey to Leaside

The McKay family – parents, three older brothers, and Susan – came from Scotland to Toronto when Susan was three. Her well-known passion for sports started young as sports (played and watched) were always a big presence in their household. Susan regularly attended Argos games with her father. When she was going to summer camp, her dad sent her the sports pages from the Saturday Globe and Mail. Inadvertently, the death notices pages came with the sports section. This started a habit that continues to this day – her careful reading of all the death notices in the Saturday paper. She even has a file with some particularly memorable ones. 

While attending Loretto Abbey for high school, she became involved in the early days of Out of the Cold, where students brought sandwiches or soup made at home to feed people from a storefront on St. Clair Avenue. She also learned the importance of spending time and interacting with the people they were helping.

Listening to her grandfather’s stories encouraged Susan to pursue history degrees from the University of Toronto, then Western University, culminating in an MA from the University of Manitoba.

The history degrees helped with writing skills and have led to her current freelance writing career. She writes for Active for Life, a publication aimed at parents and educators, and for the past seven years, for Leaside Life.

Her boyfriend, Dave Scandiffio, from St. Michael’s College School, became her husband. Their first and second houses were in the Davisville area, but as child #3 was on the way, they needed a larger house, and Leaside was the preferred neighbourhood. In June, they will have lived in South Leaside for 20 years. 

Susan McKay Scandiffio, Leaside resident, continues to channel her energy into a wide variety of hands-on activities to benefit both our local and broader communities. As described by her nominator for the Agnes Macphail Award, Stan Flemming: “Susan is a natural community leader and has been instrumental in encouraging others to activate and participate in so many charitable causes.” She is a true follower of the Agnes Macphail motto – “Think globally, act locally.”

About Lorna Krawchuk 176 Articles
Lorna Krawchuk is publisher of Leaside Life. She is actively involved in St. Cuthbert’s Church. Her volunteer activities with the Leaside Property Owners’ Association led to her being elected a Councillor in the Borough of East York for 9 years before amalgamation in 1998. She also held a variety of volunteer leadership positions with the Girl Guides of Canada for over 30 years. Lorna has been a Leasider since 1968.