Dan Leckie Community celebrates summer and builds connections

When is a barbecue more than just a barbecue? When it brings a community together, giving neighbours the chance to get to know each other and share ideas while also enjoying great food and a little summer fun.  

That’s what happened last month when tenants at Toronto Community Housing’s (TCHC) Dan Leckie Community gathered for an event organized by tenant representative, Karlene Nation.  

“I wanted it to be something that would appeal to just about everybody,” said Nation of the gathering, which included a delicious barbecue, a DJ who had everyone dancing, as well as face painting for children, plus a few adults. “The focus was to bring all of our residents together, across all three of our buildings.” 

Tenants turned out in force, gathering in the complex’s courtyard on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in August.  

“It flowed even better than I imagined,” said Nation. The event took five weeks to plan and was made possible through TCHC’s Tenant Action Funds, which covered the cost of food and supplies. “We had so many residents coming up to help on the day of the event. They helped with setting up the courtyard and managing the food as well as cleaning up.” 

“It was seriously a community effort,” said Nation who also benefited from the help of family – including her sisters Annette and Ninia as well as nephew Zac, who served as the day’s grill master, cooking approximately 300 hamburgers and 200 hot dogs.  

Three women smiling for the camera.

The barbecue was a family affair for Karlene Nation (centre) who was joined by her two sisters – Ninia (left) and Annette (right) – to help support the event. Photo credit: Simon Son

During the barbecue, tenants also started talking about other initiatives that could be held in the future. New ideas included an exercise program, a wellness initiative and a breakfast program. These ideas are in addition to other activities that have taken place in the community over the years, including events for Halloween, Christmas and Eid, movie nights and specific programming for women. Other tenants expressed interest in getting more involved in various committees within the complex, including joining the building committee and a planned safety committee.  

“Yes, it was a simple barbecue,” said Nation summing up the day. “But a lot of great things sprung from it.” 

The Dan Leckie Community is located in TCHC’s Central region. Within the heart of downtown Toronto, it’s home to more than 1,000 residents of all ages, religions and ethnicities.  

“It’s a special community,” said Nation proudly. “I’ve never lived in a place that’s so diverse. One might think there’d be conflict, but there’s not. Most are working professionals. They have their jobs; they have their children. They’re just like anyone else living in the city or any part of the GTA.” 

“Here, we have one shared goal. We all appreciate where we live. We all have something affordable. We all want to make sure the building is treated with respect; that we treat each other with respect. I think people do feel connected. It’s a very vibrant community with a lot of positive energy.” 

That energy is reflected in Nation, a community activist, broadcast journalist and media specialist – in addition to her work as a tenant leader. She says her efforts, such as organizing the barbecue, are focused on finding ways to keep the community a great place to live: “We want to be proud of where we live. Proud to invite people over. Proud to show people that yes, this is my home.” 

Photos courtesy of Simon Son.