Skip to main content

Jenna Cole created Healthful Plus, a service that provides free protective equipment to people who need it for their jobs but find it hard to purchase.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Jenna Coles

The pitch: Helping launch Healthful Plus

Jenna Coles arrived in Toronto from Australia in 2019 for what she thought would be a fun two-year stint in the technology industry. Then the pandemic hit.

Ms. Coles’s job was thrown into disarray and she couldn’t return home because of COVID-19 restrictions. “In the midst of all of that I decided to make the most of a grim situation and see how I could help all the people around me in the community,” she recalled.

She banded together with a couple of friends who’d lost their jobs and created Healthful Plus, a service that provides free protective equipment to people who need it for their jobs but find it hard to purchase. That includes makeup artists, grocery store workers, restaurant staff, food bank volunteers and dental staff. The group, which now has 11 volunteers, supplies free PPE packs which consist of three face shields, five masks and a bottle of hand sanitizer.

“I think a lot people don’t realize that people are still struggling to source their own PPE and they are really having to settle for the bare minimum,” she said. “We had over 300 requests in space of two weeks.”

So far Healthful Plus has distributed more than 1,000 packs throughout Toronto and elsewhere in Canada and the United States. The organization has also launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $20,000 to cover the cost of another 1,000 packs.

Ms. Coles, 27, quit her job last year and now works freelance in order to devote more time to Healthful Plus. “I thought that my move to Toronto would be all about the tech industry and designing apps for people’s phones,” she said adding that she now plans to stay in Canada long term. “That has quickly pivoted. But honestly I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to me. It gets you out of bed every morning, having something that’s a bit bigger than yourself to look forward to.”

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.