On Wednesday May 29, 2013, Downsview Acres residents, volunteers and staff dressed down, put on their best gardening gloves, picked up some shovels and began planting a new flower bed in front of their community.
Gardeners prepare to plant new flowers in the beds
�In our community we have a lot of seniors, and physically and intellectually disabled persons - about 50-60% of our population,� said Rose Robertson, resident and Downsview Acres garden coordinator. �In the summer, there�s not much to do, they cannot afford to go out, and they need people to take them out, so making the land beautiful uplifts their spirits and makes them feel good about themselves. It�s something to look at in the morning.�
Located near the front of the 11-storey building, some residents of 2195 Jane Street looked on, while others joined in the transformation from a green lawn into a colourful bed of fresh flowers.
�Great opportunity, I�ve never seen all of us come together like this,� said Carol Solomon, resident. �It�s great, it�s really great. It was all empty before, to see the prettiness of it is great. It lifts your spirits and I love how all of us are together.��
Carol, a resident from Downsview Acres, holds her shovel, ready for another flower to join the new bed�
Senior Superintendent Joe Polito and Toronto Community Housing staff treated hard-working residents and volunteers to a delicious barbequed meal.�
Joe Polito demonstrates his BBQ skills
�It�s a great opportunity for residents to come out and take hold of their community,� said Joe Polito, senior superintendent. �Downsview Acres was originally seniors-based and over the years different clientele have restricted residents from coming out of their own homes. For the last two years we�ve been pretty diligent in trying to get them to take ownership of their own homes. You would never see people outside like this, talking and reading a book. But thanks to staff, security and management, we�ve worked together and it�s turned out to be a beautiful day.�
Councillor and Toronto Community Housing board member Maria Augimeri (standing 3rd from right), Toronto Community Housing Vice-President, Resident and Community Services Michelle Haney-Kileeg (standing 4th from left) join volunteers, residents and staff, as they present a new batch of flowers ready to be planted
The gardening day was a joint effort with Black Creek Community Health Centre, City of Toronto, Toronto Parks Forestry and Recreation, and City Councillor and Toronto Community Housing board member Maria Augimeri.
�Both gardening and eating together are great community building exercises, so we�ve combined both today,� said Councillor Maria Augimeri. �People worked hard on flower-planting and those who could not looked on and gave a lot of moral support to those gardening. Having lunch together also brings communities together. This particular community in particular has seen hard times, and turned a corner. Neighbours now really like one another now and have come down to enjoy the fruits of their labours.�
"This initiative is a great example of how the City of Toronto, Toronto Community Housing, community partners and the residents association can work together to build community and engage residents in beautifying their spaces,� said Cheryl Macdonald, Manager, Standards & Innovation, Parks Forestry and Recreation.�
Staff and volunteers serve charbroiled-treats to residents
"Joe, my hat is off to you," said Michelle Haney-Kileeg, Vice-President, Resident and Community Services. "Today you tackled a flood on the building's main floor, oversaw the BBQ, helped supervise the flowering planting, helped us perform unit inspections, and dealt with a serious health escalation from an unwell resident. You were calm, attentive and committed in making sure each activity was successful - you are an asset to the team."