Community Centre 55
At the heart of the Beach, this City of Toronto run community centre located at 97 Main Street, provides services to a variety of citizens in its catchment area.
As Chair of the Board of Management from 2009 until 2016, I led an exceptional group of volunteer directors, who, in turn, guided our outstanding executive director who herself directed an amazing cadre of employees. From 2008 until 2016, we increased the services which the Centre offered such that our programming / charity budget DOUBLED!
Having been the Treasurer of the Board during my first year on the board (in 2008), I was well aware of the delicate work which was required to ensure that the Centre’s operational budget of nearly $800,000, combined with its programming / charity budget of over $1,600,000 budget not only balanced, but also did so in a manner which ensured the greatest return for the limited resources available at its disposal.
During my tenure, the well-liked and long-serving Executive Director retired, and the Board went through an exhaustive search for a new Executive Director. This experience taught me a great deal about human resources, knowledge transfer, and goal setting. We were able to hire a wonderful Executive Director (Debbie Visconti), who had a great deal of knowledge of the organization and the catchment area, and brought with her a zeal for the work. I am constantly amazed by her, and her staff who do outstanding work for the community.
The Board also reviewed and renewed its Constitution – an exhaustive exercise, but one which was sorely needed and which has been invaluable to ensuring an orderly working of the Centre.
The Centre offered a large number of programs, and below is a selection of them. The RED indicates which programs have been added since 2008, or have expanded since that time:
Summer Camp: grown from 75 kids to 250 children a week
Before/Lunch/and or After School: grown from 35 to 300 Children Registered
AGM-Volunteer Appreciation BBQ-CIT Graduation
All Candidates Meetings
Bard in the Park-Shakespeare in Kew Gardens
Bard in the Park: Norwood Park
Breakfast with Hamper
Breakfast with the Easter Bunny
Car Show & Shine
Christmas craft fair
Citizen of the Year
Councillor in Training Program: grown from 20 registered in a 1 yr program to 48 in a 3 year program
Community Police Liaison Committee: CC55 is the Co-Chair
Cyber Safe Workshop
Electronics Recycling Day
Emergency Access Centre
Falls Prevention Workshops
Family Fun Night,
GRIP / Mural Program
Hamper’s Santa Claus Parade
Kingston Road Fall Festival
March Break Camp
Movies in a Park
Police Day-Woodbine Park
Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon
Srs. Christmas Pot Luck
Srs. End of Year BBQ
Srs. Travel Club
Stranger Smarts Workshop
Tannenbaum 10K Run
Tennis Charity ProAm
Women’s Self Defence Class
Winter Carnival and Srs. Bake Sale
World War I Booklet and luncheon
World War II Booklet and Luncheon
100th Anniversary of building
40th Anniversary of CC55
Share A Christmas: grown from 350 to 800 clients & added Weekend Food Drives & added Teen Elf Program & added Pet Lovers Program
I am honoured to have been selected to serve this community organization for eight years – I can say with certainty that while I have given much to this organization, I have benefitted more by being a part of such a wonderful organization.
While my term on the Board ended in June 2016, I look forward to continuing my affiliation with this wonderful community organization. I urge you all to check out their site (www.centre55.com) which shows their valuable work in the community.
Neighbourhood Link Support Services / The Neighbourhood Group
Neighbourhood Link Support Services (“NLSS”, also known as Senior Link) is non-profit community services agency whose primary focus is in providing varied and valued services, including employment and retraining service, newcomer services, assisted living housing (and many others) to the residents of East Toronto.
Since 1975, a winning team of 100 employees and a devoted group of 500 volunteers have worked together to assist over 6500 residents in our communities on an annual basis. The organization meets the needs of our youth, adults, and seniors in the communities by offering respected services.
I started my involvement with Neighbourhood Link in 2010, as a member of the Board, and left in 2015, when I found that I had learned a great deal, and offered much to the board, but realized that I was becoming pressed for time (just as simple as having too many things on my plate to do).
During this time the organization went through a revitalization process by having a Board retreat arranged by a professional for the purpose of determining the strategic direction of the the service. We developed a model for forward growth, and implemented a new branding strategy. As part of this, we welcomed into the fold the Meals on Wheels program operated out of True Davidson. This process of amalgamating with another entity was particularly instructive given that we would find ourselves pressed by the Local Health Integration Network to join with other medium sized operations.
In 2014, NLSS merged with Central Neighbourhood House, to create The Neighbourhood Group. This merger process was a fantastic opportunity for me to develop greater organizational and people management skills. Merging not only volunteers, staff and the two Executive Director positions was challenging, as was the integration of two Boards of Management. However, with great assistance from the top staff at both organizations our respective Boards were able to create a larger organization with greater opportunities to assist people in a variety of communities.
As a Vice-Chair of the new Board of Directors of The Neighbourhood Group I was involved in the high-level decision making regarding the direction of the organization.
Friends of Norwood Park
The Friends of Norwood Park is a community service and social organization which I started and continue to lead. It originally started out as a residents’ association for those living in the area around Norwood Park, however, its focus has developed to include solely the park itself, leaving initiatives for the surrounding area to the East-Toronto Neigbourhood Association (see below). Our organization is instrumental in actively promoting social activities in Norwood Park, along with improvements to the physical park itself. We have an annual Shakespeare play put on by the Bard-in-the-Park drama troupe, a movie night, and in the winter a natural skating rink is formed and maintained by volunteers. We have also obtained over $100,000 in recent improvements to the park and have added over 40 new trees to replace those which have been removed by the city due to damage or age. I have highlighted this work and promoted our community through a website I have developed and hosted: www.norwoodpark.ca, or you can follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/413929708724479/
YouthLink is a youth mental health agency. It is dedicated to providing the support, guidance and opportunities they need to make positive life choices. I was the Secretary of the Board from 2016-2017. Some of the wonderful programs they offer are:
Counselling Services (Youth 12-21 years): Experienced therapists help youth explore and manage difficult issues at home, school or personal life.
Housing Co-ops (Youth 16-18 years): YouthLink has four houses in Toronto that offer safe, affordable housing where young people may live for up to a year.
YouthLink Madison Residence (Young women 14 – 18 years): A specialized group home that combines treatment for mental health disorders with life skills programs to prepare young women to live independently.
Parenting & Family Support: Helping parents and care-givers understand and support adolescent development, provide a positive family setting and connect with other services in their community.
Pathways to Education – Scarborough Village: Open to students entering high school who live in Scarborough Village, the program helps them complete high school successfully and continue at the post-secondary level.
Scarborough Community Services: A range of services and programs including youth outreach, leadership training, queer/trans community group and a youth centre in North West Scarborough.
Services in Scarborough Schools: Specialized groups for students whose social behaviour is interfering with their academic success. Groups address self-esteem, positive social skills and anger management.
Tyler McGill My First Guitar Scholarship Program: In the summer of 2007, the life of Tyler McGill came to a tragic end as a result of a senseless act of random violence. Tyler was an avid guitar player and lover of music. Since then a dedicated group of family and friends have hosted an annual fundraising event in Tyler McGill’s name to raise funds to support various community based music programs that assist at risk youth.
The East-Toronto Neighbourhood Association (ETNA)
ETNA is a community organization I founded and continue to lead whose goals are to improve the social scene for people in the area bounded by Glenmount Park Road (to the west), the train tracks (to the north), Victoria Park Road (to the east), and Benlamond Avenue (to the south). ETNA is also involved in efforts to improve the street-scape along Main Street and Gerrard Street East. If you would like to get involved, please check out our website: www.east-toronto.ca or follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/857682230954556/
Elder Abuse Consultation Team
Since 2007, I have been an active member of the Elder Abuse Consultation Team. The Team is a group of professionals organized under the auspices of Family Services Association of Toronto, whose work touches on the support of the elderly (from personal support workers, to case workers, etc…), and who gather monthly to provide advice to professional care givers who have encountered a difficult or troubling situation.
With an aging population, there are increasing numbers of our senior citizens who becoming targets for financial, emotional and sometimes physical abuse. The Elder Abuse Consultation Team ensures that those supporting the elderly in our society have another resource to which they may turn when they are at a loss. This work includes ensuring (amongst many things) that there is proper emergency housing (through Pat’s Place – 416 595 9618) for elderly in abusive situations, ensuring that involved parties are properly prepared to deal with the intervention (or lack of intervention) of police in the context of abusive relationships, and ensuring that the support network of an elderly person is aware of the mechanisms needed to protect the vulnerable elderly from financial abuse.
Beaches Mental Wellness Peer-to-Peer support group (BMW)
The BMW group was started at the beginning of 2015, by me to address a need in the east end of Toronto for a support group for those confronting mental health challenges. I found that, when I needed support when battling depression, there was no place to turn to in order to exchange ideas about treatment and seek support with other people travelling on the same path. I describe my challenges with the mental health support system in this video for CAMH’s Portico network. As such, once I started to feel better, and being inspired by Clara Hughes, I decided that as a natural “organizer” I could use my skills to organize a peer-to-peer support group. Within this group we have a very able facilitator who has experience leading peer-to-peer groups in the mental health field. And, at the last meeting of each month (the group meets every Tuesday evening from 7-8pm at Community Centre 55), I have arranged to sometimes get a guest speaker in to provide extra information to the group. You can get more information about the group at our website: www.BeachesMentalWellness.com, or on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1547433965504770/
Beach Metro Community News
This local community newspaper has been operating continuously since 1972, and provides excellent coverage of local events in the Beach community of Toronto. In 2015, I was asked to stand for election to their board of directors, and was elected as the secretary. During my tenure we reviewed and updated the constitution of the paper, which was an extensive process. For more information, and to view the paper’s on-line presence go to: www.beachmetro.com
I am the President of the local riding association for a major Canadian federal political party. I have found the work to be quite fun, and there are great people who make the organization fantastic. I have learned a lot about getting a consensus on issues, leading meetings of people, and about reaching out to diverse groups of people.