Bringing awareness to St. Joe’s
“I consider it an honour, but more importantly I consider it a duty”, Afrim Prisine says when we ask why he joined the St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation Board of Directors.
He lets out a hearty laugh, “When they first asked me to join the board, I was a bit baffled; you want a cheese monger?” Afrim is the co-owner of Cheese Boutique, and his family has run the fine food institution since 1970. Afrim’s life has also been constantly tied to St. Joe’s: both he and his brother were born here, his grandparents passed here; he recounts numerous surgeries and countless visits to the emergency department.
As a member of the board, his goal is to bring more awareness to St. Joe’s. “I think it starts in the community, and then hopefully it can evolve to the rest of the city.” He recently hosted Bloor West Cares, an event that brought together members of the west-end community, and with four celebrity chefs in attendance, it also attracted some fine dining aficionados.
“Events like Bloor West Cares really raise awareness” he says. “As someone in the food industry, that’s where I can have an impact. We’re getting more eyes on a cause that is important to Cheese Boutique customers and to me.”
Keeping a vital service alive
For Afrim, St. Joe’s is such an important place because of the vital service it provides, “I think we take it for granted sometimes.” He tells us about a recent septoplasty surgery he had, and how when it was complete he simply walked out of the hospital and didn’t have to worry about how it would be covered.
“Whenever we’re in need, we go to the hospital”, he says, “but we might not realize how little government funding actually covers.” Afrim knows that he can turn to St. Joe’s for great care, but he also knows that the hospital has many urgent needs. He cites this and his desire to help the community as the motivation for getting involved.
Afrim has certainly had an impact on St. Joe’s., The event he hosted at the Cheese Boutique raised nearly $17,000 for the Health Centre, and on January 30th he donated 100% of all Cheese Boutique sales to mental health programs at St. Joe’s. “People trust us, and if I can spread awareness, everybody wins.” says Afrim, “We want to make Toronto a better place, we want to make St. Joe’s a better place, because without St. Joe’s, I wouldn’t be here.”
Written by Nicole Landsiedel