The Yo Mobile in Timmins is bringing a new meaning to the expression "family business".
Dany Thrones is Assistant Manager of The Yo Mobile. He has been helping his uncle, Mario Dusseault, run the organization since 2016.
“The bus is my life,” says Thrones.
Thrones is a seasonal labourer. In the off-season, he devotes most of his time to The Yo Mobile.
Thrones estimates that he spends 25 hours every week on donation collections, public relations tasks, and serving the public. All his work is done on a volunteer basis.
Though Dany got involved when his uncle asked for help, he says that wasn’t the only factor in his decision.
“I used to be homeless,” says Thrones. “My dad passed away when I was 16, so from the time I was 16 until I turned 19, I was homeless.”
Thrones says his personal experience allows him to empathize with the people who use The Yo Mobile’s services.
“I’ve been in their shoes,” says Thrones. “I know the struggle that they go through. I want them to know that just because I didn’t have that support, doesn’t mean they can’t have that support. They’re like a second family.”
Sabrina Chenier is another pivotal member of the team. She manages The Yo Mobile’s social media accounts and does most of the driving.
She joined the team when she started dating Thrones.
“I kind of got roped into all this,” says Chenier. “But it’s been worth it.”
Thrones and Chenier recently got married. They said The Yo Mobile is such a big part of their lives that they used the bus as their wedding “limo.”
Sabrina balanced her volunteer work on The Yo Mobile with her day job in the service industry until recently when she went on medical leave to take care of herself and her unborn child.
“The Yo Mobile is a part of our family now, and the people we serve are our second family,” says Chenier.
The Yo Mobile is open on Friday and Saturday evenings from 7:00 p.m. until midnight. They are always on site in the parking lot of City Hall on the corner of Cedar North and Algonquin Boulevard.
“We used to drive around, but we learned that it’s better to stay in one place so that people know where to find us,” says Thrones. "People know to meet us there."
They serve soup, sandwiches, pizza, hot beverages, and desserts.
Thrones says that on average they serve about 300 people per weekend, sometimes more.
“They’re not all homeless,” says Thrones. “Some are just families that have to choose between paying rent or buying food. Obviously, they have to choose rent.”
Thrones says they serve everyone, no questions asked.
“Some are addicts, but we're not going to refuse them,” says Thrones. “We don’t judge. We accept everyone for who they are.”
“We’re there to talk, listen," adds Chenier. "We’re basically there to be their family.”
Thrones says that The Yo Mobile is completely reliant on the generosity of the community.
“If it wasn’t for the donations we get from people, The Yo Mobile would not have lasted seven years,” says Thrones. “Every donation is very much appreciated,”
Thrones urges those who want to support The Yo Mobile to reach out to them via Facebook, or to call or text him at 705-274-8104.
“We have to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance of the bus, and some of the food we pay out of the pocket,” says Thrones. “We easily go through $1000 every weekend.”
They will accept food and gas cards as donations, in addition to cash, Thrones says.
“One thing we don’t need any more of is clothes,” says Thrones. “We don't have the space.”
Thrones encourages people to bring their clothing donations to the Timmins Native Friendship Centre on Kirby.
Thrones says that more people in the community should volunteer to help those in need, saying it’s “a good experience.”
“It gives them a chance to see reality,” Thrones says. “Not everyone can afford a home. We want people to know that everyone is the same and not to judge.”